On Sunday afternoon, March 2nd, we decided to see "The Water Horse" at our local budget cinema before it disappeared altogether. Georgie was interested by it. I was less enthused, since the trailers made it pretty clear that the plot was a Loch Ness version of "E.T.:The Extraterrestrial," with a bit of "Whale Rider" thrown in. While that's basically true, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. There are a number of factors that actually make "Water Horse" a better, more mature movie than "E.T." Chief among these is the secondary plot involving the interaction of the characters. There is Angus, the withdrawn boy who discovers the creature (Alex Etel); his mother (Emily Watson) and sister (Priyanka Xi); the new handyman (Ben Chaplin), and the pompus Captain of a company of field artillery that has been billeted upon the household (David Morrissey). They all have to deal with the stresses of the war (the main action is set in 1942) and of trying to rub along in new an unsettling relationships, which adds a lot of emotional grit to what could otherwise have been a merely saccharine story.
Of course in any creature-feature, it helps to have a good creature, and "Crusoe" (as he is named by young Angus) is a satisfying sea-monster as rendered by the always reliable WETA workshop. His preternatural intelligence is explained by his being not a plesiosaur (which he somewhat resembles) but an actual mystical "water horse", although a generally benign one. "Generally" applies, because, for all its intelligence, Crusoe still reacts as a beast when upset, and, full grown, is capable of great violent action.
The ending is of course predictable, but is shot with enough care and timing to be nevertheless exciting.
Good, wholesome family entertainment. Sometimes quite funny, sometimes quite dramatic. The climax may be too intense/scary for young children.