Australian Council on Children and the Media

Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Viol. Scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
  • a review of Water Horse: Legend of the Deep completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 16 December 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence; May frighten young children
Length 111 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the 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 and, 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.

While the navy prepares for possible submarine attacks on the loch, Angus must entrust his dearest friend, the water horse, whom he has named Crusoe and who has completely outgrown the bathtub, 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 advancement of the German forces but from a fabled creature that very few believe even exist.

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

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

War; death of a parent; animal distress.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Descriptions of front line fighting are heard on the radio.
  • A bulldog tries to attack a baby Crusoe.
  • A soldier kills a deer and laughs at the look on Angus’ 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 were 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 at Crusoe, while Angus is riding him, with machine guns and torpedoes. Some they are able to dodge, others appear to hit them as Crusoe rears and roars in fear and pain.
  • When Crusoe attempts to jump a net, he gets caught and his weight brings a heavy, metal, structure crashing down on a group of soldiers.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • During a thunderstorm there are various shots 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.
  • Angus, initially, 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 before 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 is horrified and his reaction, coupled with the eerie images of dead animals may worry some young viewers.
  • Crusoe transforms from a cute little baby water horse into a mammoth creature easily able to upturn fishing boats and collapse bridges. While generally endearing there are a couple of scenes in which he turns violent and at one stage tries to attack Angus. The ferocity of his transformation may frighten some young children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the violence and disturbing scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

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

Product placement

None of concern.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

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

Nudity and sexual activity

  • There is no nudity in the film.
  • An army cook and 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.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • There is frequent use of alcohol: soldiers drinking in a local tavern, villagers using hip flasks, drinking champagne at a dinner party, etc.
  • Lewis and many of the soldiers are seen smoking.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • infrequent name calling, including “young Wally” and “bloody pest”.

In a nutshell

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 is also somewhat dark and heavy. The film is broken up by a present day storyteller recounting the story to two young tourists as well as Angus flashing back to conversations he had with his dad. Younger children may 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.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include friendship, faithfulness, compassion and courage.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as blindly following orders, acting out of fear and trying to attack what we do not understand.

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