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Catch-Up Capsule Reviews for Christmas Day 2007 Releases:

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep



Rated PG | 111 mins


     Who would’ve guessed, in months prior, that the very CGI creature that would arrive on the 2007 Holiday Film Scene and save families from the dreadful antics of a certain trio of singing chipmunks would be none other than the Loch Ness Monster? Sure, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep’s version of the mythical figure is a cute high-pitched-yelper named Crusoe, but the discovery is unexpected nonetheless. In Crusoe and pal Angus MacMurrow (Alex Etel), a young Scottish lad who finds the monster’s egg washed ashore and hatches it in secret, director Jay Russell and writer Robert Nelson Jacobs find a magical tale sure to appeal to every demographic. The movie is told in a very old-fashioned manner, but makes wonderful use of technology, turning Crusoe into one of the most compassionate works of animation you’ll ever witness. In large part, this is because the story that surrounds him is so well-defined, beautifully set amidst the historical-context of World War II. (Troops are stationed at Angus’ home, at the allowance of his Royal Navy sailor of a father who is meanwhile busy hoarding of U-Boats himself, making it even harder for the boy to conceal his otherworldly new friend.) But a lot of The Water Horse’s success is realized solely in the simple pleasures endowed upon the material by its convictive cast, which is filled with actors who believe in its magic. Leading the pact, Alex Etel shines even more than he did in Danny Boyle’s Millions, crafting a sympathetic gentleness to Angus that is heartwarming. Supporting him are Ben Chaplin, Brian Cox, Emily Watson, and (an especially devious) David Morrissey, all turning in fine work of their own. The Water Horse may not be able to match the aforementioned Alvin at the Chipmunks in terms of box office take, but it sure deserves to. This is an elegant, exhilarating, and lovable tale for all ages.




Rated PG-13 | 95 mins


     Persepolis was almost certainly picked up by distributor Sony Pictures Classics based on their success in American markets with 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville, another French animated feature. But whereas that Sylvain Chomet picture was a constant visual and auditory wonder, this one is often destroyed by its bland delivery. Sure, there’s a lot of energy to be found in Persepolis, but the film feels senseless once one realizes that there isn’t much to it. Aesthetically, it is interesting for all of fifteen minutes, but only because it dares to use traditional 2-D animation and a primarily black-and-white color palette. The same thing can be said of the narrative, which only carries its characters so far. The film tells an intimate version of contemporary Iranian history, with young protagonist Marjane Satrapi (named after and based off of one of the film’s two writer/directors) experiencing the after-effects of the fall of the Shah, the brutality of the Iran/Iraq War, and eventually her own identity-crisis when she is sent by her family to study in Austria. As a character, Marjane isn’t especially interesting, despite her livid perkiness. Furthermore: as a history-lesson, Persepolis will only enlighten those completely unfamiliar with Iranian Conflicts of the past fifty years. Sure, the film has its undeniable charms: its constant tonal jubilance, as provoked by Marjane’s youthfulness, is particularly striking when juxtaposed against the bleak history that the story chronicles. On the whole, however, there isn’t anything extraordinary about Persepolis. It is often intriguing—sometimes even exciting—but never remarkable.


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