Families — before you pack up the kids and head to the movies, be warned.
By tradition, horse movies are a family fit. War Horse is not.
I hate to be so blunt. Normally, I say think for yourself, but War Horse is far from family friendly and the warning is appropriate. It’s quite violent. By the time you get to the climax, the warm fuzzy you’re supposed to get at the happy ending, isn’t so warm. Or fuzzy.
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Joey is a Thoroughbred bought by a poor, drunken English farmer. He’s trained by the man’s son, Albert. Love blossoms between kid and horse. World War I comes and to make ends meet, Joey is sold to the military.
The horse goes to war. It makes friends with other horses. They end up in scary situations where death hangs a millisecond away and stays that way.
The popularity of Michael Morpurgo’s book — akin to Black Beauty and other children’s horse books — is based on seeing the world through the eyes of the horse. What you get are the beast’s thoughts, its take on people, war and events beyond its control. Spielberg’s movie just gives you what happens to the horse, and sometimes how humans view what is done to it and other horses. The horse’s thoughts never enter the story.
Woven into the plot is Albert joining the army and going to war in an effort to seek out his lost equine friend.
Steven Spielberg’s film is gorgeous. He remains one of the best directors of his generation and — as always — Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is breathtaking. Where the film falters is the inability of screenwriters Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) and Richard Curtis (Bridget Joneses Diary) to connect you to the horse and the horse to you.
That flaw earns War Horse the distinction of being the biggest movie disappointment of 2011.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, violence. It opens Christmas Day at the Carmike 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.