Film: War Horse rides the schmaltz

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January 6th, 2012

Omaha, NE – One of America’s favorite storytellers is back with an adaptation of a heart-warming story.The Reader’s Ryan Syrek and Matt Lockwood from the Movieha podcast have this review of War Horse.

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"War Horse," director Steven Spielberg's latest film, is now playing in Omaha.

Ryan: Steven Spielberg, master of the mainstream and champion of center-line cinema is back, this time with a horse.

Matt: Of course, of course. And not just any horse, but a horse that has been reincarnated several times, having been born as a book then reborn as a Broadway play and now finally reaching nirvana as a major motion picture.

Ryan: For those who find the title War Horse vague or misleading, the film follows a horse during World War One. We first meet the equine as he is bought by a small family farm, where he is loved dearly by a young boy who, ahem, saddles him with the unfortunate horse name, Joey. From there, the horse is sold to the British army, repossessed by Germans, loved by a French girl, and finally thrust into trench warfare.

Matt: Joey is like the Forrest Gump of horses, in that he always seems to be around things that are interesting but rarely has anything directly to do with them. The biggest problem is that the horse isn’t given any quirks or personality. All Spielberg gives us is that he’s well-built and dependable. But when the star of the show is an animal, you need a bit more than that.

Ryan: The humans fare no better really, as the attempt to show us various stories doesn’t allow any of them to particularly shine. Not that we really need or want to spend more time with any of these characters, as they are all astoundingly one-dimensional and each event is mind-numblingly schmaltzy and obvious.

Matt: Schmaltz on top of schmaltz on top of schmaltz is the name of the game. From the overly-dramatic score by the normally beyond reproach John Williams, to the way in which the whole thing feels designed just to win an Oscar, this pony did not ride for me.

Ryan: I may have liked it a bit more than you, but only a bit. Ultimately this reminds me of movies like the King’s Speech. Generally amiable, totally harmless, but destined to fool some folks into believing that there’s more going on here than mere pleasantness. With so much in theaters right now, you can do better.

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