The Water Horse begins like a lyrical Scottish fairy tale, which I guess in a sense it is. And with a rating of PG, it's clear that it is intended for children.
So I suppose I must forgive it for its biggest flaw: It is relentlessly, numbingly predictable.
From the moment each cardboard character hits the screen, you know where they're going to end up. Oh, look, a couple of young tourists meet an old man in a pub who's going to tell them a story. I wonder who he's going to turn out to be? Oh, look, the boy lives on the shore of a loch, I wonder which loch it could possibly be? Oh, look, he's deathly afraid of the water, whatever could cure him of that, do you think? A pet, perhaps? He's obsessively counting the days until his father's tour of duty ends, do you think maybe Mom already knows that Dad isn't coming home? Mom meets a mysterious handyman, I wonder if they'll fall in love?
The only real surprise is that, in a World War II era story in which Nazis are spoken of almost incessantly, we never actually see one. I half hoped the handyman would turn out to be that cinematic rarity, a good German...but...
You have to really enjoy watching the playful CGI title character (you know who he is, right?), because he may be the best actor in the movie. Okay, that's not really fair. The acting is overall quite good, and everyone seems well cast.
But by the fourth or fifth time someone backs off, sputtering and screaming, from their first sight of Crusoe the sea-sick sea serpent, I would think even the kids would be tired of it.