The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

Movie •••• Picture ••••½ Sound ••• Extras ••½

When I was a kid, I always wished there was a Loch Ness Monster. I remember the supposed sightings, and that infamous photograph. The world was too full of the mundane; it deserved a few wonders. . . . Some things never change. As an adult, I still hope there's a Loch Ness Monster - and more things like it to marvel at.

The Water Horse explains the beastie in a warm, wonderful, and family-oriented way. On the shores of Loch Ness during World War II, young Angus (Alex Etel) - a lonely boy whose father has gone to war and failed to return - finds an egg. He takes it home and puts it in his Dad's workshop, whereupon it hatches into the cutest little dinosaur-like creature you've ever seen. Angus names it Crusoe (when his eye happens to fall on a nearby copy of Daniel Defoe's famous novel).

It becomes evident fairly quickly that Crusoe craves both food and water. He graduates from a trash pail filled with water to the bathtub, growing at an alarming rate. Having been identified by the newly employed handyman as a Water Horse, he must be returned to the Loch - where he's at the mercy of frenzied, incompetent troops bent on protecting their waterway from German submarines.

The movie avoids treacle by a hair and emerges with true sentiment instead of sentimentality. It's good that the cast is largely unknown; you can genuinely relate to these characters. Overall, The Water Horse might strike you as one of the great Disney films that Disney never made.

And the movie looks drop-dead gorgeous on Blu-ray Disc. The transfer is exceptionally detailed, yet I could detect no instances of edge enhancement. Blacks are solid, and shadow detail is excellent. When a night chase scene gets into gear on the Loch near the end of the movie, there's no confusion about what is happening.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound doesn't fare as well. There are some very thick accents among the cast, and they're not always easy to understand the first time around. The music is nicely spread, and there's imaginative use of surround sound in scenes like the one in the workshop when Crusoe is dashing around, with Angus in pursuit. But all too often, the rear sounds seem to come directly from the surround speakers rather than being spread across an immersive sound field.

The six featurettes are merely what you'd expect these days from standard making-of bits. They don't hurt, but they don't overly enlighten either. Weak deleted scenes don't add much, and there's no commentary for the film.

There is a Blu-ray exclusive - a Virtual Crusoe Game in which you can "raise your own water horse from a wee baby to the most magical creature the Loch has ever seen." Ah, now there's treacle - and maybe young children need it. But for most of us, The Water Horse itself has just the right amount of magic.

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