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Black Beauty

Black Beauty

What he said:

He

The She has been telling me to watch this one for years. A childhood favorite of hers, she thought I would enjoy it as well. I’m an animal lover. I like a good family flick. But I never got around to seeing it until recently when we were looking for something to watch.

Black Beauty tells the story of a young horse recently born on a farm in the English countryside. The young horse is full of life and loves living on the farm. He runs, plays, and almost never leaves his mother’s side. Farmer Grey (Sean Bean) is a kind man and treats the horse very well. The farm is something of a paradise for the young horse and his mother.

Nothing lasts forever though and as he grows older, he is sold to Squire and Lady Gordon. Lady Gordon (Rosiland Ayres) is quite sickly, but loves horses, and the arrival of a new horse excites her. She names the horse Black Beauty (voiced by Alan Cuming).

There Black Beauty meets a feisty pony named Merrylegs, whom he befriends. Merrylegs enjoys getting into a little trouble, so his name is appropriate. He also meets a horse named Ginger. She has quite the temper on her, but this doesn’t stop Black Beauty from developing a major crush on her. Black Beauty also meets a few people as well. John Manly (Jim Carter) is the caretaker of all the horses. His nephew Joe (Andrew Knott and Ian Kelsey later on) helps him. Black Beauty grows quite fond of Joe.

Black Beauty

Because of Lady Gordon’s health, the family is forced to move and sell their horses. This isn’t the last time Beauty is sold either. He bounces around several times over the next few years. Even worse, not all of his owners are as kind as Farmer Grey, John Manly, or Joe. Horses were people’s mode of transportation back in the 1800s, but not all of them were kind owners. Beauty was sad to leave his mother, but it’s even tougher to swallow when he is purchased by people who don’t treat animals with love, or at the very least respect.

Black Beauty is a great movie for the whole family. It’s got some sad moments, but also some uplifting ones, with a few funny ones thrown in along the way. It’s a wonderful little tale, with some great music and excellent camera work. There are lots of great shots of horses running through scenic landscapes. Alan Cumming also does a wonderful job of bringing this story to life. There are a lot of good performances in this movie, but his voice work really makes believe in the whole thing, particularly when Beauty doesn’t understand the senseless and sometimes cruel things we people do. Same goes for the parts when Beauty is happy, like when he meets Ginger. You really believe it.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie was written for your reading pleasure on March 30, 2013.

 

What She said:

She

Off the top of my head, I can only think of two movies that are guaranteed to make me cry every time I watch them.  One is The Lion King, and it's not the Mufasa part that makes me lose it. I actually cannot make it through the first three minutes of the movie without welling up.  For some reason, I find that opening musical sequence overwhelming powerful.  And yes, the same holds true for the musical.  Seen it twice and shed a few tears both times.  The other movie that gets me is this 1994 adaptation of the classic children's novel, Black Beauty.

I attribute my weakness to a few things.  First, I loved this movie when I was a kid.  I had it on VHS and could not get enough of it.  So now, every time I watch the film it reminds me of my childhood.  But beyond that, I am an avid horse lover.  My family had a horse when I was younger and I have spent a lot of time around them.  I therefore naturally get emotional when I see how poorly they can be treated.  And that is the foundation of the plot of Black Beauty. 

Black Beauty

The movie tells the story of its namesake, a stunning black horse who had an ideal childhood, only to face intense challenges in his adult life.  Some of the people he interacts with are wonderful; others treat him and the other horses as if they're worthless and disposable. Beauty also makes friends with another horse, Ginger, who is portrayed as the love of his life, and a spunky little pony, Merrylegs.  As the viewer is taken through the trials and tribulations of Beauty's life, it's possible to draw parallels to our own lives. The bottom line is that people do not just treat horses bad, they treat each other bad as well, and in many ways Beauty's story is very relatable to the human species.

The film definitely has its downsides.  It does, in some ways, ooze early '90s.  And I know that many find the narrative from the horse to be cheesy and distracting.  Perhaps the movie could have worked as well, if not better, if that first person narrative did not exist--show, don't tell--but I tend to be somewhat forgiving of this because it helps to make the film more easily digestable for the younger crowd.  I personally move past the narrative fairly quickly, as I become more engrossed in the story.

On the other hand, the film has several strengths.  The first is a theme that resonates and can easily be taken away by viewers after watching the movie.  "Treat others the way we want to be treated," whether that be animal or man.   What a good moral message for both children and adults.  The movie also features some beautiful country-scapes.  In that sense, it's very distinctly British.  Overall, the film is very emotional, borderline too emotional for children, and that is boosted by an amazing score from Danny Elfman.  Now, I know what you're thinking, Danny Elfman's style and sound does not fit a children's movie, unless we're talking about The Nightmare Before Christmas.  But he really does something different for Black Beauty.  He utilizes a full orchestra to create a score that very nicely captures what we see on screen.  Believe it or not, he uses a lot of violins.  I won't kid ya, I'm a longtime fan of this score. I listen to it all the time. I think it's the least known title that Elfman worked on, and many ways his best.

Call me biased, but I've always liked this movie and probably always will. Some may find it too superficial and cheesy, but it's really meant to be a family movie and you have to remember the era during which it was created.  For me, it's a definite watch.

Thumbs up.

 

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