War Horse

By Mark Ramsey | 2012/01/07

Has there ever been an amber field of grain that can’t be just a bit more sun-drenched when also drenched in a John Williams score?

Or a purple mountain more majestic thanks to the majesty of a John Williams crescendo?

“Can you pass me the TV remote?”

Cue John Williams crescendo.

“Wow, I hope I am going to watch a very special episode of Celebrity Wife Swap.”

Crescendo swells to thrilling conclusion as the remote flips from one grand, magnificent channel to the next, its plastic frame glinting in the midday sun.

There’s always time for a sentimental tale of a boy and his horse. And War Horse is the kind of evergreen holiday movie that will play annually on TV like Judy Garland in Easter Parade – except with dead horses and poison gas.

It’s early 20th century wartime, and a boy has to have his horse sold to support the family.  And so begins the horse’s journey from home to war and, we hope, back home again.

“I had already visited this theme with an animated mouse named Fievel in An American Tail,” said director Steven Spielberg, “but now it was time to make the same movie, this time with a goyim horse named Joey!”

“The audience got confused by the original title, An American Tail, Joey goes to War,” said Spielberg, “but maybe the idea that we weren’t in America had something to do with it.”

So Joey is traded from one kindly protector to another in the midst of war.  “I have more suitors than Jennifer Lopez, and a bigger schlong, too” said Joey in an early screening, before the filmmakers decided not to make this a talking horse movie, let alone a talking horse movie that referenced Jennifer Lopez. “Yes, Rhianna would be way more relevant,” advised producer Kathleen Kennedy.

“It took everything we had not to make this horse talk,” said producer Frank Marshall.  “After all, the last animal in a major motion picture who didn’t talk was Free Willy - assuming you don’t count Mickey Rourke.”

“At least the Germans and the French speak perfect English,” added Marshall, “unlike Mickey Rourke.”

There’s a war on!  Forget the artillery!  Bring in the swords and the horses!  And let’s all stand together in what the military experts call the “kill us where we stand formation”!  You have to love the British and their oh-so-civilized wartime rituals, including their primary victory strategy, called “asking nicely.”

And now it’s time for War Horse to meet up with young Emilie, a sickly French girl who couldn’t act her way out of a loaf of French bread.  But she goes gaga all over War Horse, even changing his name to “Tea Party with My Dolly” Horse and dressing him like a French Maid.

War Horse was co-written by the guy who wrote Notting Hill, which is why Hugh Grant travels across the war-torn countryside to publicly express his love for War Horse at the movie’s climax.  “You’re not the strangest animal I have ever loved,” says Hugh, “nor the one with the largest mane – that honor goes to Julia Roberts.”

Where’s the scene where Peter Coyote tries to kill War Horse as he gallops into the moonlit sky?  Will that be in the extended DVD version?

I don’t know, but one thing’s for sure, War Horse does what it means to do.  And that’s as much as anybody can ask of a good movie.


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