Critic Review - NPR

It's not that a film can't be lighthearted family fare, a gritty war epic and a weepie all at once; the problem is that here, those elements feel strictly compartmentalized -- and calculated.

December 23, 2011 Full Review Source: NPR | Comments (27)
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Dec 24 - 04:41 AM

Wilbur Tackaberry

Wilbur Tackaberry

Ian Buckwalter? You are a calculated douchebag

Dec 24 - 04:59 AM

Facebook User

Facebook User

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Jan 4 - 08:16 PM

Facebook User

Facebook User

my best friend's sister makes $69 hourly on the laptop. She has been unemployed for 8 months but last month her income was $8634 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more... LazyCash5.com

Jan 4 - 08:16 PM

Jim Smoltz

Jim Smoltz

your an idiot

Dec 24 - 05:35 AM

Caleb Ludrick

Caleb Ludrick

If you're going to insult him at least use correct grammar.

Dec 24 - 07:28 PM

Peter K.

Peter Karpathakis

You said it Caleb... and at least this guy gives a good reason to not like the movie. You're (note the spelling there) the idiots if every person who has a different opinion as you is automatically called a moron just because of it... same goes for you Wilbur!

I haven't seen the movie yet, as I'm sure you haven't either Wilbur & Jim since it comes out tomorrow, but I've become obsessed with the play. If the movie can capture the brilliance of the play then I'm certain it will be great. But Spielberg films have a tendency come off really calculated, so Ian could easily be right. I hope he's wrong though, but you need to simmer down there Jim (and read a dictionary).

Dec 24 - 08:45 PM

Jeslyn Rumbold

Jeslyn Rumbold

Unfortunately, he's not wrong - read the book, saw the film, and the only tears I shed were for the horrible adaptation. I have enjoyed Spielberg's films! I really wanted to enjoy this one! That didn't happen. Ian's review is spot-on.

Jan 3 - 11:51 AM

Bonny Wright

Bonny Wright

Just saw the movie - I can't begin to describe how disappointing it was - the cinematography was superb, but the movie just never really connected with me emotionally - it was too "Disney-esque", saccharine, and unbelievable to truly engage me on a gut level. I don't know how some of the scenes were filmed - there were some extraordinary scenes, for sure - but the overall effect of the movie left me flat.

Dec 25 - 08:14 PM

Gregory Scarpa

Gregory Scarpa

This movie is filled with cheesy scenes. Why Spielberg? Was your buddy Lucas helping you write this movie? I also agree with Bonny W. Saw the movie last night and what a disappointment. I guess I shouldn't be surprised when compared to what comes out these days. Movie took a down turn within 5 minutes. Didn't like the kid cast-ed..he's cheesy and couldn't act. The fool of a dad that bought the horse...spends all of his rent money on a horse he didn't need. So stupid. The heart of the movie is relationships the horse builds with the different characters throughout, but like Bonny says you don't connect emotionally.

Dec 26 - 07:57 AM

Gene Nem

Gene Nem

I was disappointed too with the film, Bonny W. Instead of making mental leaps it made emotional leaps. I felt I was supposed to come in with a previous story already in mind. It didn't have solid storytelling most of the time. I was supposed to just feel emotions because it was a horse and a boy. I would suppose that did work for some. Though I did like the scene with the two soldiers in no man's land. I didn't feel like clapping at the end. I just felt like getting out and doing something interesting and worth my time.

Dec 26 - 09:53 PM

Olga Yun

Olga Yun

Meh, so it wasnt just me. I wasnt that impressed by the movie either. The only thing that i like is the scenery. Overall it was all average (acting performance and storyline). I didnt had any connection to any relationship there either...

Jan 8 - 05:27 PM

Alex Giuliani

Alex Giuliani

The title of this film should have been, "Who has custody of the horse today?", and eventually I felt like I couldn't care any less.

Jan 14 - 07:48 PM

Mathew Sewell

Mathew Sewell

I am entirely in agreement with Ian. This movie was exceptionally formulaic, and far far far too cheesy. I am an exceptionally empathetic person, I can get misty eyed at an emotional commercial, but this movie did nothing for me, as I was able to predict what the next few seconds or minutes would contain in the majority of the scenes. "Oh, now she'll go over the hill and the camera will stay focused here but she won't come down, so we won't know what's happened, and then bad music will play to let us know we should be worried." "Now ______ is going to die because he's outlived his usefulness to the formulaic plot" Every step of it is predictable. And I don't mean in the sense that you will know the whole movie from the get-go, but in each individual scene you will know what's coming seconds or minutes beforehand, leaving you perpetually one step ahead of the film and feeling uncomfortably manipulated as a result.

It's a relatively cheesy movie, as well, and utterly reminiscent of Black Beauty. The cheesiness just oozes off of scenes (especially near the end) to the point where it's almost uncomfortable to watch. The awkward and unrealistic moments where hundreds of people seem to drop everything they're doing (like caring for hundreds of dying patients in a hospital to deal with a horse with a cut on its leg) are seemingly trying so hard to get an emotional response that they end up getting nothing, particularly when nothing about any of these scenes is at all surprising.

There's plenty of good things about the movie, though. The cinematography is top-notch and really shines during the cavalry charges, Joey's escape through the trenches, and a few other brilliant moments. The stories of the side characters are all fairly interesting, with the highlights (for me) being the little French girl Emily and the two soldiers who meet in No Man's Land to help Joey. These moments are so good they underscore the mediocrity of the rest of the movie, and really emphasize how unlikeably whiny and idiotic the main character is (He enlists in WW1 to find a horse and runs around the trenches whistling all day for four years to try and find it. Brilliant).

All in all, it deserves the 75% it got.

Dec 26 - 08:19 AM

Steven S.

Steven Smith

I completely agree with everything you said.

Dec 26 - 09:22 AM

Tina Jones

Tina Jones

Ditto!

Dec 28 - 06:32 PM

Brendan Donovan

Brendan Donovan

Do not confuse "cheesy" with sentimental. Sorry the horse couldn't die like you wanted or whatever makes you call the end cheesy, but actually it was touching, despite being sentimental or "unrealistic." The excellent filmmaking and undeniable quality of cinematography and storytelling should keep cheap insults like "cheesy" away from this Spielberg film. Its a family movie: there will be sentimental moments, accept them. I think that's the real problem you had with it. Spielberg did not make a "cheesy" war movie about a boy and his horse, he made a FAMILY war movie about a boy and his horse.

Jan 2 - 06:54 PM

Mathew Sewell

Mathew Sewell

I am entirely in agreement with Ian. This movie was exceptionally formulaic, and far far far too cheesy. I am an exceptionally empathetic person, I can get misty eyed at an emotional commercial, but this movie did nothing for me, as I was able to predict what the next few seconds or minutes would contain in the majority of the scenes. "Oh, now she'll go over the hill and the camera will stay focused here but she won't come down, so we won't know what's happened, and then bad music will play to let us know we should be worried." "Now ______ is going to die because he's outlived his usefulness to the formulaic plot" Every step of it is predictable. And I don't mean in the sense that you will know the whole movie from the get-go, but in each individual scene you will know what's coming seconds or minutes beforehand, leaving you perpetually one step ahead of the film and feeling uncomfortably manipulated as a result.

It's a relatively cheesy movie, as well, and utterly reminiscent of Black Beauty. The cheesiness just oozes off of scenes (especially near the end) to the point where it's almost uncomfortable to watch. The awkward and unrealistic moments where hundreds of people seem to drop everything they're doing (like caring for hundreds of dying patients in a hospital to deal with a horse with a cut on its leg) are seemingly trying so hard to get an emotional response that they end up getting nothing, particularly when nothing about any of these scenes is at all surprising.

There's plenty of good things about the movie, though. The cinematography is top-notch and really shines during the cavalry charges, Joey's escape through the trenches, and a few other brilliant moments. The stories of the side characters are all fairly interesting, with the highlights (for me) being the little French girl Emily and the two soldiers who meet in No Man's Land to help Joey. These moments are so good they underscore the mediocrity of the rest of the movie, and really emphasize how unlikeably whiny and idiotic the main character is (He enlists in WW1 to find a horse and runs around the trenches whistling all day for four years to try and find it. Brilliant).

All in all, it deserves the 75% it got.

Dec 26 - 08:19 AM

Colin Ainsworth

Colin Ainsworth

I agree that the various aspects of the story were compartmentalized, but such a thing doesn't distract from the film. Circumstance thrust the "mane" character into a number of different roles, into the stewardship of unique individuals across Europe. It would have been strange for much beside the horse to remain constant. While I know it's a critic's lot in life to be critical, I thought it was a wonderful film. Perhaps it is worth a second look, Mr. Buckwalter.

Dec 26 - 09:34 AM

Seth Rosenberg

Seth Rosenberg

"... hose elements feel strictly compartmentalized -- and calculated."

What did you expect? - it's Spielberg: the lord of sentimental and shallow manipulation for profit.

Dec 26 - 09:48 AM

George Doll

George Doll

Wow, I am incredibly disappointed with you film school douche bags that want to mock Spielberg and call him formulaic and commercial. This is a beautiful film and if it happens to move you in some way, you think your mind is being "manipulated". It's called story telling dip shit. Not everything can be avant garde.

Jan 2 - 06:26 PM

Jeslyn Rumbold

Jeslyn Rumbold

Personally, I didn't see this film expecting avant garde - I would have been more than satisfied with some subtlety. Didn't find any of that. As for those defending it as a family film, keep in mind that it did receive a PG-13 rating, so it wasn't sanitized for kids - it was just way, way overproduced and manipulated. In my opinion.

Jan 3 - 11:58 AM

Nancy Russo Vigeant

Nancy Russo Vigeant

I laugh with any argument or opinion that ends with "...for profit." As if anyone who does anything for profit is nefarious, bad, or ill motivated. Profit has motivated some of the greatest inventions and services in the history of the world. Sure it can be used nefariously, but so can charity.

But the worst part of that argument is the assumption that if someone makes a profit on something, then that is the ONLY reason they did it. It couldn't POSSIBLY because they wanted to tell a story (whether they did a good job or not is besides the point), provide a good service, make a good product, help someone else out, or anything. NO, that's just beyond any human's capabilities. If there is a profit... there are bad motives, period, end of story.

What a small and puny outlook on life. And it usually comes from people who have NEVER had to run or start their own business.

Jan 3 - 10:56 AM

Gene Nem

Gene Nem

The film didn't work for me either. I thought it was saccharine. I did like the french grandpa. Good acting from him.

Dec 26 - 09:47 PM

Melanie Sotomayor

Melanie Sotomayor

i respect ur opions but if u guys didnt like the movie try the book i hate reading and the book was so moving it me cry and its a bit differnt then the movie i cant promise youll like it but i do recamend the book

Dec 30 - 02:18 AM

Jeslyn Rumbold

Jeslyn Rumbold

Agreed - LOVED the book!

Jan 3 - 11:59 AM

Kelley Citrin

Kelley Citrin

My parents and I saw ths, and althogh we all have completely different interests in movies, we all agreed it was one of the best movies we've ever seen.

Dec 30 - 05:54 PM

Taergeht Siram

Taergeht Siram

Rarely, do I find myself in such disagreement with people over a movie. I love Steven Spielberg's films and am not a hard sell, but I'll be damned if this movie wasn't an endurance test to sit through. BORING. The idea was great, but the emotional payoff wasn't even enough for such a dry, LONG film. OMG, I wanted to shoot people by the end.

Jan 1 - 08:20 PM

Braden Deal

Braden Deal

Maybe they seem calculated because the production crew sat down and said, "let's put this in the movie" and then did it.

Jan 2 - 08:24 PM

Steve Wayne

Steve Wayne

you are an idiot

Feb 6 - 06:45 PM

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