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WHAT’S WRONG WITH WAR HORSE?

By Bob Silbernagel

My wife will tell you that I'm a sucker for horse movies of nearly any sort. From "The Black Stallion," to "Secretariat," I'm usually lined up early to see a horse pic. So, my daughter Kara (the other horse nut in our family) and I were eager to see Steven Spielberg's "War Horse." I'd read a lot about the play, and the trailers for the film looked great.

But Kara and I both walked out of the theater very disappointed. For a variety of reasons.

First, it seemed like Spielberg couldn't decide whether to make a Disney-style, feel-good fantasy like "E.T.," or a gritty war movie like "Saving Private Ryan." The result is it switches back and forth from hoaky, feel-good scenes to gruesume war scenes with little rhyme or reason. And human characters come and go so quickly (mostly go as war victims) that you don't know whether you're supposed to like them or not.

Second, I don't mind a horse fantasy. "The Black Stallion," after all, did things that most of us know a horse is never going to do. But what Joey, the War Horse, does was too incredible for me to suspend my disbelief.

Finally, I can think of only one other movie where I felt like the director was so blatantly trying to manipulate my emotions, and I didn't like that one either. I expected "War Horse" to be a tear-jerker -- sort of "Black Beauty" and "Ol' Yeller" rolled into one. But instead of getting teary, I got angry about feeling so manipulated. The "Gone With the Wind" sunset at the end was particularly annoying.

Speilberg is a great filmmaker, but this wasn't his best effort. And if you want a great, upbeat horse movie, go rent "Seabiscuit" again.

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