Home > Reviews > THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP – James Newton Howard


December 28, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A delightful little fantasy with a Celtic lilt, The Water Horse is a children’s family film directed by Jay Russell. Set in Scotland, it follows the adventures of a little boy named Angus MacMorrow (Alex Etel), who befriends a rather unusual animal: an amphibious ‘water horse’, which causes much mischief and mayhem in the MacMorrow household, but also eventually becomes the source of a much-discussed legend – the Loch Ness monster. The film stars Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, Brian Cox and David Morrissey in the adult roles, and features a pleasant score from James Newton Howard.

As befits the setting, Howard breaks out his Scottish orchestrations, littering his orchestra with all manner of skirling bagpipes, Celtic fiddles, rapid fire percussion, and windswept woodwinds. It’s clichéd, but it sounds lovely, never more so than in the slightly lonely sounding “Main Title’, the moody “The Workshop”, or the vaguely romantic “Ann”. Occasionally, the score sounds like one of James Horner’s Celtic scores, or the Irish concept albums Mychael and Jeff Danna wrote for Hearts of Space in the 1990s; it’s all very pleasant, unassuming stuff, which washes over the listener but never really rises out of the realms of ‘pretty nice’.

Once in a while the true spirit of the Gaelic reel jumps out, such as the opening parts of “Bathtub”, the hand-clap led “The Fishermen”, or the raucous and unexpectedly Carl Stalling-esque “The Dinner Party”, but the single highlight is inarguably the triumphant “Swimming”, in which Howard presents a stirring, sweeping theme for the full orchestra and various soloists which truly captures a sense of energy and freedom, friendship and childhood innocence.

Some of the album’s conclusive cues, notably “There’s No Monster”, the thrilling “Saving Crusoe”, and the stirring pair “The Net” and “The Jump” also feature a great deal of high-emotion composing for the orchestra, and sometimes recall the finale of Basil Poledouris’s Free Willy. The album also features a lovely song by Irish vocalist Sinead O’Connor, “Back Where You Belong”, and (to continue the trend of confusing geographical specificity) a performance by the legendary traditional Irish band The Chieftains in the conclusive “Water Horse Suite’, and while The Water Horse certainly has its moments of great beauty and excitement, it can’t really be counted amongst the composer’s – or the year’s – best.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Back Where You Belong (performed by Sinead O’Connor) (4:29)
  • Main Title (1:09)
  • Angus Feeds Crusoe (1:59)
  • You Didn’t Even Get Wet (2:58)
  • The Workshop (2:35)
  • Ann (1:28)
  • Bath Tub (2:23)
  • Driving to the Loch (2:00)
  • Run Angus (1:20)
  • The Fishermen (1:37)
  • Angus in Training (2:52)
  • Swimming (6:34)
  • The Children Laugh (2:58)
  • The Dinner Party (3:03)
  • There’s No Monster (2:01)
  • Saving Crusoe (2:04)
  • The Net (4:22)
  • The Jump (1:40)
  • End of the Story (3:04)
  • The Water Horse Suite (performed by The Chieftains) (8:08)

Running Time: 58 minutes 44 seconds

Sony Classical SK-719300 (2007)

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