Magic in the Water
aka, GLENORKY. 1995
Director: Rick Stevenson

Director: John Henderson

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

For a three or four year old, Magic in the Water (aka, Glenorky 1995) would probably be a captivating film. But it won't take a lot of maturity to be disappointed. Still, get in the right frame of mind for a gutless family film with hokey-looking friendly plastic monster, & it's not all bad.

Two kiddles, Ashley & Josh (Sarah Liscette Wayne & Joshua Jackson) discover a British Columbia cavern beneath or by a lake, in which they can interact fairly closely with the local lake legend, Orky, who turns out to be more than a legend.

Magic in the WaterDad (Mark Harmon) doesn't believe they've really seen a monster until he checks it out & then he's impressed.

Since Orky is by no means an Orca, who can guess why it was given such a silly name, perhaps so it could rhyme with Dorky, kids'd love that. The actual lake legend of the region calls it Ogopogo, & the film should've kept that name.

Ashley first got to know Orky the Not-an-Orca by leaving Oreos (perhaps that should be Orkeos) at the end of the dock. Orky eats the middle out & leaves the cookie outsides for Ashley to find as evidence of the creature. How did a giant thing without fingers managed to eat just the middle out? Who the hell cares.

The family gets to squat down in the cavern & gaze up in wonder. Then the camera cuts to the lake creature's puppyish sweet face. Eventually the kids even hug the unyielding plastic prop with the barely mechanical eyeball. Surprisingly enough, the acting ain't bad & the kids are especially effective in their performances, but the earnestness of hugging a plastic head with a crappy robot eye just made the goofiness goofier.

The closest thing to interesting side-characters are the group of loonies who've seen Orky & who are presumed to require psychiatric treatment (from Harley Jane Kozak as Dr. Wanda Bell). But for whatever reason Mark Harmon's character, the ill-named Jack Black, never gets eccentric from his connection to the creature's mysterious mind. So the idea that Orky does some kind of telepathy is never developed, & the chance for something original in this wet washrag of a film is foresworn.

Along the way, we get a cliche local color Indian semi-shaman Pickled Trout (Ben Cardinal) who is to Ashley what Uncle Tom was to Little Eva. We also get members of Bad Big Industry polluting sweet & dear Orky's precious lake in accordance with an Ecological Message simple enough for three year olds to understand. And we get cutesie Asian scientists (Willie Nark-orn & Anthony Towe) who arrive in their yellow submarine, their yellow submarine.

Mee-SheeExcept for no product placement for Oreos, Mee-Shee: The Water Giant (2005) could well be a remake of Magic in the Water, though the similarities are in actuality due to both films' utter lack of imagination resulting in pretty close to the exact same story developed in the exact same way.

Two kids, Mac & Pawnee (Daniel Magder & Jacinta Wawatai) get to hang out with the tuskless but otherwise walrus-like puppy-faced friendly lake monster in a cavern by the Canadian lake. The original script called this creature Ogopogo, but by the time it was filmed, it'd become Mee-Shee.

Eventually we'll have that same scene of the family gazing upward with golly-shucks wonder at the CGI enhanced muppet that we wait forever to see. That all the "good" characters are dewy-eyed enamored of the sweet dear giant animal(s) gets most mawkish after they've just seen the Grendel's Mother version of Mee-Shee kill the bad guys & an extra person (helicoptor pilot) not actually proven to be bad. Ahhh, cute murdering creatures, ahhhh.

Along the way we get an actual character who happens to be an Indian, Pawnee's dad with the unlikely name of Custer (Tom Jackson). Custer & Pawnee should've been the main characters instead of the usual passle bland honkies. But that might've required an Indian writer. Otherwise Native America is just a lovely decoration to spice up the white world.

For real local color we get the chief's widow "Crazy Norma" (Rena Owen) standing in for the wise old shamen. Alas Norma isn't given much of a role; she just stands on the lake edge & emotes anger or happiness or whatever.

There's also the requisit mini-sub, this time belonging to Mac's dad (Bruce Greenwood), who works for Big Industry but in the end repents of it even though we've never seen Big Industry actually be bad. For true villains with an advanced Black Submarine armed with torpedos, we get Greenpeace eco-terrorists.

Showing the well-meaning industrialist & super-evil greenies sort of reverses the usual cliche of good greenies & bad polluters, but other than the right-wing approach to who most harms the environment, nothing original comes out of this awful film.

One puzzling cliche of such films is there must be a daddy, but should not be a mommy. Dead mom or divorced dad is the rule of the day. I guess the chance for a romantic subplot for Dad is completely blown if he has a gawdamn wife tagging along. And they call these family films! This film, however, felt it needed a mother figure even if not someone as boring as an actual mom. So the rural house which dad & Mac rented comes complete with a maid, I kid you not, a cabin-maid. Must be a Canadian thing. Or a really lousy writer's.

Mee-SheeMagic in the Water told the story much better by the script, but Mee-Shee: The Water Giant has better animation than the bathtub toy & plastic head with robot eye seen in Magic.

The muppet meeshees are nice enough looking though not well integrated with the human characters. There's way too much "cut to Mee-Shees" sort of editing reminiscent of old jungle movies when people point & look intensely all in the same direction, then cut to some group of animals from South America.

The cinematography is in general bland, losing an opportunity with the Canadian wilderness. The script per se is just unimaginably badly written. Still, due to the presence of good-enough kid actors & the muppetiness of the smily-walrus-creature, little kids are going to love Mee-Shee.

The moments of extreme violence look enough like a video game that even the wee ones probably won't be too awfully scared for more than a moment. But parents should be aware that the "sweet" creatures go for vigilante justice.

For adults in the room, however, just as with Magic in the Water, parents may need a little magic water of their own before subjecting themselves to either film.

How to choose between these two films for the kids? Well, off hand, I'd say that if you hate hippies & would like to see Greenpeace members killed by a monster, go for Mee-Shee, but if you think industrialists are evil, go for Magic in the Water. If you want a good lake creature film, however, one that will engage adults, skip both of these stupid films & go instead for the mocumentary Incident at Loch Ness (2004).

Loch NessThe barely or marginally talented John Henderson of the Muppet Workshop had essentially already filmed Mee-Shee but set it in Scotland. I guess he lacked sufficient imagination to come up with something different.

About Nessy rather than Ogopogo, Loch Ness (1995) starred Ted Danson. It was intended for theatrical release but distributors wouldn't fall for it, so it ended up a made-for-TV film, hence populated mainly by tv actors.

We don't get the usual Indian shaman or shamenness for local color because it's Scotland, but we do get a Scottish crackpot "water bailiff" (Ian Holm) who knows what he knows. It has the requisit child (Kirstey Graham), single male (Danson), & love interest (Joley Richardson). It is in general better acted than the script merits.

As usual in the films though not in the original legends, the water critters live in a cave, this time beneath the castle, where the cast gets to interact with muppetry that this time isn't even slightly well done. Pet the big muppet! It won't bite, pet it! The cavern scenes in all these films allows for indoor soundstage work. Has nothing to do with being logical or a story well told.

Ted Danson's character Scrooge, er, Dempsey, wants to prove Nessy isn't real. Just his bad luck, he discovers it's all true. The main plot is about the crabby disbeliever learning not only to love Nessy, but to love the inkeeper & her daughter. Because the Nessy itself is so badly designed we are not subjected to much of it. Likely even children wouldn't care for this one as much as other versions of essentially the same lame tale, as there's too little of the creature & too much of Dempsey falling in love.

Other plesiosaur survivals:
The Crater Lake Monster (1977)
Incident at Loch Ness (2004), The Loch Ness Horror (1981) & Beneath Loch Ness (2001)
Or continue forth to another dinosaur movie:
Gorgo (1961)

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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