In recent years, the proudly, blatantly self-important projects that Steven Spielberg has worked on (often with Tom Hanks) — ones like the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers
and The Pacific
— have been such a turnoff. They may be good, but who wants to sit through something out of a feeling close to obligation? So I'll admit, I was resistant to seeing War Horse
, uncle Steve's latest prestige project, and pre-disposed to not liking it. This film, an adaptation of the Tony Award–winning play
and children's novel, tells the story of boy gets horse, boy loses horse to World War I, boy enlists in army to find horse, boy and horse are reunited, and all is well. It's about as audience-friendly as can be, and with gorgeous photography, a predictably majestic score by John Williams, and decent performances, the film is a rousing one that will make you stand up and cheer.
But of course it will. That's the whole point. War Horse
is so engineered to appeal to its audience, and doesn't even try to hide it. No one gives the horse any credit but the boy, who just knows he can train it to save his family's farm. And guess what? Then the horse goes from owner to owner to owner to owner, during wartime, and yet somehow, miraculously, the horse (whose name is Joey, by the way) survives. And then, when the boy and horse come together again, the music swells, your eyes begin to water, and ... well, yeah. I knew going in that I wasn't going to love this movie. War Horse
is generally well made, it's a slick piece of audience pleasing entertainment, but I didn't love it like I think I was supposed to. So I'm giving the film a B.