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Black Beauty

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Black Beauty

Starring: Sean Bean, David Thewlis
Director: Caroline Thompson
Rated: G
RunTime: 88 Minutes
Release Date: July 1994
Genres: Drama, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Peter Davison, Andrew Knott, Jim Carter, Alun Armstrong, Eleanor Bron, Peter Cook, John McEnery, Nicholas Jones

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

BLACK BEAUTY is not a story *about* a horse, it is the autobiography as told *by* the horse. This latest of a long string of BLACK BEAUTY adaptations is simply wonderful from start to finish. In so many ways, the writer (Caroline Thompson and Anna Sewell) and the director (Caroline Thompson) made just the right choices in how to make this classic book come to life on the screen.

BLACK BEAUTY is the story of a (boy) horse from its birth (a great scene) to its puberty (along with the classic girl rejection scene) and then through his adult life. Just as in human life, there are masters (read bosses) that are wise and kind and other that are stupid and mean. Also, as we humans have found, there are friends who mean a lot to us. This is a movie that does not pull the punches. Bad things look like they might happen on several occasions and sometimes they really do. This, of course, makes love and triumph even more appreciated.

Too often the producers of kids movie take no risks. The homogenized and safe movie they end up with, offends no one, but bores half of the audience. Producers Peter MacGregor-Scott and Robert Shapiro were willing to take risks and they made the movie that truly comes alive with all of the spices, joys, anguish, fears, and triumphs of real life.

Besides the perfect scripting and directing, there are many other marvelous aspects to the show. Alex Thomson's cinematography showed the setting of the English countryside in the Fall, and it never looked more lovely with its golden radiance. The city was made to look dark and foreboding in contrast. Clearly, the countryside was heaven and the city, hell, BUT here we find some bad people in heaven and some good people in hell.

The many actors in the show (Peter Cook, David Thewlis, John McEnery, Eleanor Bron, Sean Bean, etc.) were all top-notch. The star nevertheless was Black Beauty. I believe that even people who don't care much for horses would love this show - it is that good.

The key ingredient for success in the show, was having a strong narration throughout by Black Beauty himself. We know Black Beauty's every thought. This was not done in some trite fashion as in all those movies where the babies talk to us. Instead, we have a Scottish actor (Alan Cumming) delivering a beautiful and melodious rendition of the horse's inner thoughts.

The show makes you feel as if you had been reincarnated and were a horse in 19th century England. This it should be point out was not an easy time to be a horse because people used them for everything from pulling a taxicab to pulling heavy coaches to being the semi (lorry to you British readers) of their time to just generally being worked until you dropped if you got a cruel owner.

Copyright 1994 Steve Rhodes

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