"MAGIC IN THE WATER"
by Michelle Erica Green



This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.


Grade: A-
Title: MAGIC IN THE WATER
Year: 1995
Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes


Video Summary:
Jack takes his kids Ashley and Josh on a trip to a small Canadian town famous for legendary monsters in its lake. Since Dad is too busy trying to write his novel to have any fun, the kids explore on their own. Ashley has an encounter with the underwater creature, which likes Oreos but seems to be suffering from some sort of illness. "Orky" saves Ashley's life by taking over her father's body to rescue her from a broken ladder.

After his encounter with Orky, Jack gets in touch with the joyful creativity of his youth. He also falls for a local psychiatrist, who hospitalizes him when he speaks of his encounter with Orky. As the children struggle to save their father and to uncover the mystery of the creature down below, they become entangled in a conspiracy to hide offshore toxic dumping.


Best For Ages:
6-8: Best for kids in this group who donít have nightmares and like scary movies.

9-12: Pre-teens are an ideal audience for this video's humor and science fiction theme.

13 and up: Though some teenagers might find the monster-love story too sappy, the strong performance by DAWSON'S CREEK star Joshua Jackson will keep the attention of others.


Parental Advisory:
Educational Value: The hazards of toxic waste create a pro-environmental subplot, though the issue is never explored in depth. The fatherís need to get in touch with his inner child leads him to partake in creative activities with his children.

Entertainment Value: Lovely Irish-sounding music and pretty shots of the beach and sky make this an attractive video. The story, though rather predictable, holds viewer interest through visual humor and an underwater action sequence.

Frightening Situations: An invisible creature attacks a man in the video's opening moments. The children's father is stuck in a mental ward, leaving his children alone in a strange place. A little girl falls from a high ladder. Thugs have ominous discussions about their plans. Kids get stuck inside a sinking ship that fills with water. An Indian ritual summons a thunderstorm.

Questionable Behavior: Alcoholism; psychiatric patients refusing to take their medicine; children talking back to adults and running away from their parents; kids sneaking onto a boat and trying to steer it.

Mature Themes: Dad is a radio shock jock, though his patter is quite tame by Howard Stern standards. Divorced parents argue over the children. Toxic waste kills a friendly dinosaur.


Review:
This story of a child of divorce who lures an otherworldly creature with sweets is highly reminiscent of 'E.T.'. Despite its formulaic plot, the charming performances and witty script make it enjoyable. Mark Harmon is delightful as boyish Jack Black; so are the kids playing his initially sarcastic, later warm-hearted offspring. The town's predictably quirky residents seem very stock, but strong acting makes the side characters work as well.

Though the sea creature attacks a couple of men, it's no more frigtening than the nasty locals conspiring to hide their corruption under the lake. A five-year-old viewer was less disturbed by the events onscreen than by the eerie music and violent storms foreshadowing conflict. A parody of a twelve-step group where men confess to obsession with Orky will be lost on children. But incidents like the one in which Dad falls through the hole he's been digging to China are amusing.

The cinematography is simple but effective. During one sequence when the family looks for patterns in clouds, the sky changes to reflect the images they see. Orky looks like a cross between a real dinosaur and a big-eyed animated version--a bit too cute, but he's not onscreen for very long. Like Disney's MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, this story of a gentle giant parallels both family and social situations which will resonate for young viewers.


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