The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Directed by Jay Russell | 111 minutes
Starring Alex Etel, Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, Priyanta Xi, David Morrissey

A rollicking fantasy about the world’s most famous mystery monster, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep is set at a mansion on the shores of Loch Ness in 1942. Angus (Alex Etel), a boy too timid to swim in the lake, spends his days picking up treasures on the shore and his nights listening to the wireless and keeping up with the progress of the Allies against Hitler. His father left with the Royal Navy years ago, and Angus is counting the days till his return.

On one of his excursions Angus discovers an interesting rock with luminous colors under its surface on the shoreline. He hides it in his father’s workshop and one stormy evening, he is awakened by noises.. He finds a tiny dinosaur with flippers and a winning personality has emerged from the egg and is knocking about his father’s things. He takes pity on the fatherless creature and promises to take care of him. But Angus soon finds, to his dismay, that the little guy, whom he dubs “Crusoe”, has quite an appetite, not only for food, but also for trouble.

His mother (Emily Watson) works as the head housekeeper for the absent lord of the mansion. Her job is complicated by the arrival of her employer’s Oxford buddy. A spoiled fop, Captain Hamilton (David Morrissey), commandeers the estate to set up a military outpost on what calls the “front line of defense against German submarines”. Soldiers swarm all over the great stone manse, and a stocky cook and his belligerent bulldog Churchill take over the kitchen.

Angus must hide Crusoe from the soldiers and shares the secret with the new handyman Louis (Ben Chaplin) and his sister Kirsten (Priyanta Xi). Crusoe’s rapid growth and penchant for mischief make him a constant challenge. Louis recognizes Crusoe as a water horse, a mythical creature of Scottish folklore, only one of which can exist in the world at once.

Crusoe soon outgrows the bathtub and the loo and escapes into the house. There are plenty of laughs as the cute but clumsy little dinosaur careens around the mansion pursued by the bad-tempered dog, which chases him out of the house. Realizing that he can no longer be hidden, Louis helps Angus release Crusoe into the lake. The boy and the sea monster have bonded and have a painful farewell. Crusoe continues to grow and becomes fearsome in appearance, and soon fishermen on the lake are amazing the locals with stories of the sea monster.

The timid Angus finds himself thrust into a courageous attempt to save his friend Crusoe from being bombed by the soldiers as they mistake him for an enemy invader. He finds within himself the strength to overcome his fears out of his love for Crusoe, and in return, is able to face the real terrors of wartime.

Mystical settings, romantic stone buildings, craggy mountains, and the deep and mysterious loch, coupled with outstanding performances by Alex Etel and Ben Chaplin, help create the best film of its kind since ET. Like ET, however, Crusoe crosses the line into frightening, and the masterful special effects may be overwhelming for small children, who might better wait to see this on DVD. The Water Horse has great character actors and the mystical Celtic soundtrack creates a true Scottish ambiance. This is a wonderful holiday film which will warm the heart and ignite the imagination of children and their parents.

Leticia Velasquez is a homeschooling mother of three and a part-time college professor of English as a Second Language who writes in her spare time.