Grumpy Old Critic on War Horse

My father became very jaded about movies in his later life. He seemed to think there was nothing new under the sun and that the best movies made were already completed by 1939. I hope I don’t go that far (although he could have been right), but there is a tendency for us old folk to get jaded about these young whippersnappers and their confounded new-fangled way of doing things.

Hence the term: “Grumpy Old Critics”

There’s something so bothersome in films and some of the clichés. One of them is the dog and cat metaphors. We always know there is evil lurking when the obligatory scene of the dead pet-be it dog or cat-is shown to the audience to let us know to beware.

Just once, just once, I ask, will they let the poor dumb G-Damn animal LIVE till the end of the film?! The latest I speak of, lest I spoil anyone’s shock and horror, is found in the film, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

The film is quite good, and yet they felt the need to broadcast the evildoer’s intentions with the death of a domestic animal. There are so many things in this film that I did NOT see coming, but that was not one of them…

“War Horse” was painful to watch for several reasons. I drank too much liquid and really was in pain. There was a child in a stroller, a toddler, behind me that was sobbing and that child really should not have been in the picture.

I also feel something for those of us who are animal lovers to the point of being dotty. I am one of those nuts. And after seeing Old Yeller die, and Bambi’s mother, and the Yearling die, and all the animals in “Dances with Wolves” go, then you become not hard-hearted but instead completely unable to watch another innocent animal suffer. Not to spoil the film, (don’t read this if you haven’t seen War Horse and think the ending must be secret), but I’m very glad the animal does not die.

However, I am beginning to think that there is no situation where an innocent child or animal is abused or treated cruelly that can be spinned in a positive light. In other words, I’ve seen two movies for younger audiences that I couldn’t possibly recommend for children. (Hugo was the other one.)

Adults such as myself have a hard time with sappy animal films. But those who are not yet fully developed emotionally probably shouldn’t see this film. It’s about war and death and violence and suffering. Yet there’s a beautiful animal in the midst and a plucky young kid right out of “National Velvet” who believes in him.

So…..I just can’t resign myself to believe this is a good children’s movie.

Published by

MLJ

Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

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