A simple boy-bonds-with-horse story, based on Michael Morpugo’s 1982 best seller, which is already a stage sensation, is now skillfully brought to the big screen by director Steven Spielberg. Where theatergoers thrill to a puppet horse, moviegoers bond with a real stallion for a story that people everywhere can comprehend. In a nutshell: The title character, an innocent horse, is sent off to war and possible death along with thousands of horses and humans for a conflict they did not create.
The film’s humans are only background here. It’s the courageous steed we focus on. What’s also striking is how the film recalls the look and feel of old Hollywood epics that appealed to mass audiences.
Sixteen-year-old Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is living on a farm in Devon, England, when his father (Peter Mullan) buys Joey, a wild young stallion who responds to Albert’s warmth and patient training. Soon, the two become a working team doing chores around the farm. When World War I breaks out, Joey is sold to the Army to become a war horse. Soon Albert, too, is soldiering off to war.
When the film depicts the battle of Somme, Albert and a young German soldier recklessly venture into no man’s land to try save Joey after he becomes entangled in barbed wire, the film stretches realism to symbolism to make a point. The two young men untangle the steed to supposedly send this message: Why can’t all nations just get along? On stage, the wire incident elicits audible gasps; on film, it just seems unrealistic. And so does the film’s sentimental ending when Albert and Joey ride into the sunset and home to the farm.
Another recommended family film, the Spielberg-directed “The Adventures of Tintin,” turns classic comic books by Belgian artist Georges Remi (penname “Herge”) in to a motion-capture animation film to fine effect. The story centers on the boy Tintin and Captain Haddock’s search for a sunken ship. An irresistible dog is important to the plot. But someone else is also searching for the ship. See the film to find out who it is. #