THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP Directed by Jay Russell. Starring Emily Watson, Alex Etel, Ben Chaplin, David Morrissey, Brian Cox PG cert, gen release, 111 min
AH, YES. Lot’s of bracing highland air. Children in corduroys and thick-knit jumpers. German U-Boats lurking just over the horizon. Now, this is what I call a proper family film. The Water Horse may remind many of ET, but in atmosphere and setting it leans towards classic E Nesbit stories such as Five Children and It and The Railway Children. Despite the fine computer-generated effects, one leaves the cinema eager to grab a glass of Vimto and get to work on the Meccano set.
Young Alex Etel stars as the son of the housekeeper (Emily Watson) at a manorial pile on the shores of (pay attention, now) Loch Ness. One day, the lad, whose father has been killed in the war, finds an oval object in the shallows and, after lugging it back home, is surprised to see it split and release a grey creature a little like a lizard. Alex reveals his secret to the grumpy new handyman (Ben Chaplin), but is careful to hide the intelligence from the nasty, posh officer (David Morrissey) whose battalion has just been posted to the estate.
Will Mum fall for dishy Ben or uptight David? Will the Water Horse escape the ordnance being discharged across the Loch? Just who is the old man who tells the story to contemporary tourists in a framing sequence? The answers are all obvious, but the picture abounds with such salty good will that few sensible children will prove resistant to its charms.
Meanwhile, older brothers and sisters, who may have recently encountered a more malign class of aquatic lizard, can view it as an antidote to Cloverfield.