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Based on a novel by Dick King-Smith, author of The Sheep Pig (from which Babe was adapted), the touching and often spectacular The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep ingeniously presumes to explain the truth behind "Nessie," , the Loch Ness Monster. The story, told in present day to a couple of American tourists by a kindly gentleman (Brian Cox) in a pub, begins with a lonely boy, Angus (Alex Etel), pining for his father, who is serving in the Royal Navy during World War II. Angus, along with his sister (Priyanka Xi) and mother (Emily Watson), live on an estate that has been billeted by soldiers in the Scottish Highlands, near Loch Ness. The troops commander (David Morissey) has an eye for mom, suspicions about a mysterious handyman, Lewis (Ben Chaplin), who is also a war hero, and an absurd contention that the Highlands are the real frontline in the war against Germany.
Into this intriguing drama comes a completely different element, a fantastical creature of Celtic mythology that befriends Angus and is, in fact, the sea-beast who will eventually be known as the Loch Ness Monster. Trying to hide the dinosaur-like fellow, nicknamed Crusoe, Angus enlists Lewis to transfer it to the lake, where boy and serpent have extraordinary adventures together until human stupidity threatens Crusoes existence. A true family film, there is a lot for adults to like about the grownup story in The Water Horse. Meanwhile, the wistful relationship between Angus and Crusoe--each of whom helps the other move past obstacles toward their individual destinies--will leave children feeling both happy and melancholy in the best possible sense. Directed by Jay Russell (My Dog Skip), The Water Horse is the best of a mini-genre of films about or inspired by old Nessie. --Tom Keogh.