"Waterhorse" is charming, and a lot more. It would be unfair to say, merely, that "it is good for what it is," as in being a very nice family film. That is true, of course. But like the better British films, albeit one directed by an American and shot in New Zealand, "Waterhorse" has a rich texture and depth that makes it most worthwhile.
Going in, I knew it was ostensibly for kids. The depictions of wartime Britain, however, and the "real" lives of old folk, adults, parents, and kids of varying ages, however, give it a depth reminiscent of John Boorman's great 1987 classic, "Hope and Glory." To be strictly honest, it isn't quite as good, but Boorman's was a masterpiece, and this one is, well, very good.
In one respect, the story is a bit silly, as far as the monster part is concerned. However, the FX were seamless and perfect, and the monster was imbued with a personality that was matey, and fitting. It worked. I don't find legends of the Loch Ness Monster, or Sasquatch, or that sort of thing very interesting. Nonetheless, this monster was flawless, and more akin to the whale in "Free Willy" than some totally irrelevant yarn such as the Harry Potter stories (no offence intended to fans of those stories, please).
This story had real enough human emotion and "life" happenings. It is 1942, the war is still going badly, and the young boy, I'm guessing he's supposed to be about 10 or so, keeps a quiet and secret "fortress" and "Intel HQ" in the estate's work shed. He has maps and charts and flags pinned all around, charting the progress of the war. He has pictures of his father, fondly remembered, and he even has his dad's release from service date marked on his special calendar. He "X's" out each day until his father is set to return. Spoiler--- his father has died in a naval battle of some kind, and the boy's mother hasn't the heart to tell him. His older sister, probably around 14 or 15 or so, probably also knows her father is dead and won't be returning. But out of love and an appropriate kindness, neither the mother nor the sister tell the boy that sad fact of wartime life.
Eventually the boy figures out his dad is gone--- after all, it has been a year since his disappearance. He finally says to his mother--"Dad's not coming home, is he." A statement, not a question.
Anyway, no single aspect of the story is stunning or profound, particularly. But taken together, it is a heart-warming and lovely film to bask in. The historical vibe was spot on, and the people involved were interesting and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It is suitable for kids, of course, but very sweet and nice for adults as well.
Review by bopdog from the Internet Movie Database.