Story

In the midst of World War II, a lonely boy named Angus (Alex Etel) finds a mysterious egg in a tide pool near a loch. The egg hatches. With the help of his sister Kirstie (Priyanka Xi) and the new handyman, Lewis (Ben Chaplin), Angus attempts to keep the rapidly growing water horse a secret from his mother (Emily Watson), and nosy, fortune-seeking locals. This proves easier said than done, especially when Captain Hamilton (Davis Morrissey) and his regiments move in and set up camp downstairs.

The navy prepares for possible submarine attacks on the loch. The water horse is now named Crusoe and has completely outgrown the bathtub. Angus must entrust him to the loch. Things take a turn for the worse when the soldiers test torpedoes in the lake. The once tame and peaceful water horse, afraid for his life, turns violent and wild. The attack that the Captain has long feared comes not from the German forces, but from a fabled creature that very few believe even exist.

While Angus’s life hangs in the balance, the tables turn. With a little faith and friendship, insurmountable obstacles are overcome and natural order restored.

Themes

War; death of a parent; animal distress

Violence

  • We hear descriptions of fighting at the front line on the radio.
  • A bulldog tries to attack a baby Crusoe.
  • A soldier kills a deer and laughs at the look on Angus’s face as he leans over the dead animal with a bloody knife in his hands.
  • Lewis explains how he got his war-related scars.
  • The soldiers fire torpedoes into the loch.
  • Crusoe, scared by the torpedoes, attempts to attack Angus.
  • We are lead to believe that Crusoe has eaten the bulldog.
  • Crusoe attacks the boatload of soldiers that are shooting at him. He grabs one of the men in his teeth and begins thrashing him about while the terrified soldier screams for his life.
  • A soldier attempts to fire at Crusoe while Angus is in the way. Lewis tries to stop him and is knocked unconscious by the butt of the soldier’s gun.
  • Soldiers repeatedly fire machine guns and torpedoes at Crusoe while Angus is riding him. They dodge some, but others appear to hit them as Crusoe rears and roars in fear and pain.
  • When Crusoe attempts to jump a net, he gets caught. His weight brings a heavy, metal, structure crashing down on a group of soldiers.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

  • During a thunderstorm, there are images of the old house, featuring lots of creepy objects (including a scary devil image) distorted by shadows. Angus has gone to investigate some crashing noises and is confronted by a creature who does not want to be seen. Loud, suspenseful music plays in the background and adds to the intensity of the situation.
  • Initially Angus is afraid of the water. He begins to wade into the sea, while apparently fighting a panic attack. He slips and is pulled down into the water while creepy, suspenseful music plays in the background. There is an image of his drowned body floating face down in the water. Then we realise that he has imagined the whole thing.
  • While being chased by the bulldog, Crusoe finds himself in a shadowy trophy room filled with distorted images of animal heads and skins. Crusoe’s reaction in this scene combined with the eerie images of dead animals might disturb some young viewers.
  • Crusoe transforms from a cute little baby water horse into a mammoth creature who can easily upturn fishing boats and collapse bridges. While he is generally endearing, there are a couple of scenes in which he turns violent. At one stage, he tries to attack Angus. The ferocity of his transformation might frighten some young children. 

Over 13

Most children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

In discussing the gender of Crusoe, Lewis explains how a water horse is both male and female hile it does lay an egg, its body acts as both mother and father, even though the adult will die before the egg hatches.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

  • There is frequent use of alcohol. Soldiers drink in a local tavern, villagers use hip flasks, people drink champagne at a dinner party, and so on.
  • Lewis and many of the soldiers are seen smoking.

Nudity and sexual activity

An army cook and a kitchen hand are seen drinking wine while preparing dinner. They both begin dancing and wind up in a passionate embrace while the children watch, horrified.

Product placement

None

Coarse language 

This movie contains some infrequent name-calling.

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep is a family drama, best suited to older children and adults. It features beautiful scenery and great computer-animated graphics, but it is also somewhat dark and heavy. The movie is broken up by a present-day storyteller recounting the story to two young tourists. It also has Angus’s flashbacks to conversations he had with his dad. Younger children might be both confused and bored by these changes in context and dialogue.

The main messages from this movie are to believe in the magic of childhood and that everything becomes possible when we face the things we fear most. You might like to talk to your children about values such as friendship, faithfulness, compassion and courage.

You could also discuss the real-life effects of behaviour such as blindly following orders, acting out of fear and trying to attack what we do not understand.