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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 25 April 2005
A nicely shot film where the horses are undoubtedly the stars even with the presence of the likes of Sean Bean and David Thewlis. Alan Cumming's narration might irritate adults but I couldn't think of anyone who'd do better but it does pigeonhole it as a kids film. From my very vague memories of the book when I was young, I think it was probably reasonably true to the feel of the book. An enjoyable couple of hours and the horses and English countryside look gorgeous.
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on 9 July 2000
A lovely film and a must for horse lovers, the film is so faithfull to the book, and so enchanting. I'v seen it about 6 times and every time I'v seen it I'v sobbed, its so real. Its one of the best films ever!
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on 28 July 2010
My six-year old daughter, who loves horses, was devastated by this film, sobbing her heart out from the first time Beauty is injured right to the end (and for some time after). The film was way too violent for her, but she needed to see the end to make sure Beauty was alright. I would say it is not a kids' film - and of course the novel was not intended for children.
For adults, the images are beautiful and it is moving and gripping throughout, but just be careful who watches...
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on 3 June 2007
First of all, the film itself.

I've seen several Black Beauty films over the years (and the television series). I am pleased to say that it's possibly one of the best adaptations I have seen. Beautifully staged, it will not dissapoint any horse mad daughters (or sons) in your household. As an equine neutral adult, I can appreciate the care taken in the production of this film, and as a previous reviewer commented, it indroduces fairly adult themes to younger viewers (in a gentle way), which is no bad thing.

And onto M.G.Hatfield - an earlier reviewer of this film. What a star!! If you like reviews devoid of punctuation and any clear train of thought, then have a look at other films this person has reviewed. A copy of 'Eats Shoots & Leaves' should be sent to this guy/women without delay.

I'm still laughing...
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Anna Sewell's novel was originally intended to increase awareness of the appalling working conditions of horses and the indignities forced upon them by the demands of 'fashion' and insensitive owners (the book was widely distributed by animal rights campaigners), so it is perhaps little surprise that the first faithful film version proved a box-office disaster in the US. Despite reuniting many of those responsible for The Secret Garden [DVD] [1993] in the hope of repeating its surprise success, it lacks the feelgood factor of either that or a Free Willy, being bittersweet at best, after an unsteady first half-hour assuming a steadily darker hue as it becomes harsher and more genuinely affecting.

There are problems, mostly to do with the script and Caroline Thompson's direction, both of which seem to lack confidence and ambition in the early stages (production values, it has to be said, are top-notch throughout). That the film is narrated by the horse (and voiced by Alan Cumming) is not so much of a problem as the fact that at times it just won't shut up - by comparison, Mr Ed is a Trappist. Unfortunately, take away the narration and the visuals in the first half of the film would not be sufficient to tell the story alone. Worse, the film is shot too impartially, only rarely assuming the horse's point of view (although a brief dream sequence is beautifully realised) and Thompson initially has difficulty integrating the animals and the humans - top-billed Sean Bean's walk-on part consists entirely of a handful of uninspired and poorly staged reaction shots. Indeed, only Jim Carter and David Thewlis stand out in the familiar cast as the most sympathetic of Beauty's handlers.

Yet for all its faults, emotionally the film works, particularly in its often extremely powerful last half-hour. In particular, Beauty's reunion with Ginger, his life-long love from happier days, her body emaciated, her spirit broken, barely able to recognise him before her carcass is unceremoniously disposed of, is an emotionally shattering and genuinely heartbreaking sequence whose impact lasts far beyond the film's happy ending. Simply filmed and all the more affecting for its understatement, it is one of those rare moments that shows the power of cinema to transcend words and thought and directly address the senses.

The film missed out at the box-office and doesn't seem to have fared any better on video or the small screen. Warners' letterboxed DVD pressing offers good picture quality that highlights production designer John Box's marvellous recreation of London in the cab-horse section while the soundtrack does full justice to Danny Elfman expressive classical score. A minor classic. The only extra is a brief trailer.
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on 7 March 2011
This movie perfectly captures the essence of the book and is probably the most faithful adaptation so far.

Beautiful visuals, good pacing, and a the heartfelt story of a beautiful black horse who is passed through circumstance and choice from home to home, and experiences both the best and worst of human nature.

Personally I love this film and the message it conveys, however, although Black Beauty is often seen as a story for children the author originally intended for it to be read by adults as a plea for people be more compassionate and thoughtful in how they treated their horses, and it did lead to a reform of animal welfare laws at the time including as mentioned in other reviews the abolishment of the bearing rein.

As such this is a touching and thought provoking film, but due to its nature in addressing the issues of the cruelty and neglect some horses suffer at the hands of uncaring owners, it is also very sad and harrowing in some parts and younger or more sensitive children may be upset by it. Even I found it sad in places, but I agree with the reviewer Anne, the messages of compassion and consideration of others, human or animal, are important ones, and this film conveys them very well. Also the film really isn't as "depressing" as a lot of people are making out..... there is actually a good deal of gentle humour mixed in to balance out the sad.

I'd personally recommend this film highly for any fan of the book, adult or not, but for younger children perhaps rent the film and watch it alone first, that way you can see and judge for yourself before showing the film to them (and easily return it if you feel its not suitable).
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on 16 July 2007
I first saw this film when i was 4 and i still love it!!! Unlike several other adaptations this film remains very true to the book. It really takes you inside the mind of black beauty and can be very emotional in places.
Overall this is a truely classic film all the family can enjoy again and again.
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on 15 March 2016
Black beauty is a very sad film for anyone who loves horses. I myself work with them, love the film, but it always makes me cry. I know a few horses like Beauty, Ginger and Mary legs. It dose make me happy and I would not change it for the world.
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on 17 April 2016
I myself grew up with the story of Black Beauty and my son taking after me and loving animals we sat down together to watch this. Yes it is very sad and in places very disturbing but I thought it was important for my son to understand that although we have pets who we love and look after, there are people who do not. Both of us were in tears during the film but since I knew it had a happy ending I thought it was good for him to watch Til end. My son was 6 when he saw this and I agree that it can be very disturbing and horrible in places but I have always believed in educating my son about animal welfare and the fact that not everyone respects animals. This has actually made him more aware and he does look at how others are treating their animals and he has huge respect for all creatures. I suppose it is more of a film for adults but parents know their own children and can decide whether this is something they can cope with. Even though I have seen it countless times I sat and watched it again recently and yes, was in tears again so parents be warned. If you haven't seen it and are thinking of watching it with your children then I suggest watching it first without them to decide if they can cope with a very sad true fact of animals being mistreated by humans.
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on 9 February 2011
This is a beautiful film and true to the book.
Anna Sewell said that her book was written for people who work with horses "... to induce kindness, sympathy and an understanding treatment of horses". This piece of work led directly to the abolishment of bearing reins and to other animal welfare reforms. Whilst I understand parental concern if their children find it upsetting, the compassion for others both human & animal that it engenders is an invaluable life lesson and one which they will be take with them into adult life.
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