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'The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep'

Take the boy/horse bonding stuff from The Black Stallion, mix it with the cutesy-creature- turning-scary stuff from Gremlins, stir in a daddy's-not- coming-back storyline from whatever World War II picture strikes your fancy, and you'll have a rough recipe for this boy-and-his-Loch Ness-monster story.

The Brit cast is fine, the digital creature is persuasive enough, and the Scottish scenery's certainly pretty, so there are hooks for the family audience. But the story might well prove too alarming for really small kids, and too twee for adults.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.