Even after all these years, dear Ness-keteers, nothing really satisfies like a woefully misguided childrens’ film. Which is why I am happy that I finally found “Magic in the Water”. The subject matter has a certain appeal anyway (ahem), but the whole movie is so hilariously, awesomely inappropriate that it was like a gift from Quetzalcoatl.
I’ve seen enough bad kids movies since I launched the Realm that I think I can come up with some broad categories that usually turn up some gems. There’s the “Wizard of OZ” Plot Movie, where the kid hero visits a magical land, meets some friends who become his de-facto adventuring party, and saves the day before returning home. There’s the “Home Alone” Plot Movie, where an obnoxious (or not, but that’s rare) child gets to do things kids don’t usually get to do and/or would get in trouble for doing, terrorizes some adults along the way but they’re bad guys so it’s okay, and saves the day. There’s the increasingly popular Harry Potter Plot Movie, where a sad kid learns that he is actually important and has an awesome destiny to fulfill in a world of hidden legendary beings and magic everywhere. And finally, there’s the “E.T.” Plot Movie. “Magic in the Water” is a perfect example of this last one.
You could probably recite the tropes of the “E.T.” Plot Movie along with me and “Magic in the Water”. There’s a weird kid whom nobody in her family really understands. The kid eventually makes friends with a nonhuman who really “gets” her. Some adults learn about the interspecies friendship and do what they can to ruin things for our leads. They apparently succeed, and there may be a sad scene where the nonhuman friend seems lost forever. But the power of love triumphs in the end, and the kid and the animal/alien/robot/monster/whatever friend are safe to engage in a groundbreaking scene of boundary-obliterating and passionate lovemaking before the credits role.
Ha ha, I blindsided you with my wildly inappropriate humor in that last bit didn’t I? Well, get used to it, because the PG-rated “Magic in the Water’ is full of fun and child-appropriate gags about monsters mutilating and eating people, those strange and wacky Japanese people with their machines and their funny moon language, and little girls wandering in the woods alone at night and worrying aloud about the threat of “highway perverts”.
It gets very awkward in the room after that last bit.
In the great name of Mood Whiplash, there is also a magical lake monster named Orky who likes to lick the cream filling out of Oreos (only “M.A.C. and Me” is more ridiculous in it’s direct, point-to-point, find/replace “E.T.” rip-offery), does cute things with clouds and bubbles and reverse-run film stock, and has the ability to transform and inhabit the minds of humans to get them to lighten up. The Obligatory Distant Overworked Dad in this film gets touched by Orky shortly after the line about highway perverts, and immediately becomes, like, a Better Person and stuff. According to this movie, being a Better Person means that you will start building impossibly elaborate sand castles with the sand you’ve displaced after attempting to dig a hole to China, stuff your face with Oreos, and try to break the sound barrier on a swingset. I dream of the day when Hollywood finally understands that there is a big difference between child-like (which is good) and child-ish (which is bad and, ultimately, really uncomfortable after a while).
It should be mentioned that, in the grand tradition of cryptozoological film stars (whatup, Baby?), Orky takes his sweet time before he actually appears in-person onscreen. And when he finally does, you end up wishing he hadn’t. He looks remarkably like a roadkilled Steller’s Sea-cow; doubly impressive because the Sea-cow is (a) aquatic and (b) extinct. Oh, and he dies onscreen shortly after the little girl hero meets him face-to-Sea-Cow-puss. But somebody licked the insides of the Oreos the little girl left out on the dock right before the end-credits, so the kids watching will stop crying and be satisfied with the vague implication that Orky got better, right?
By the way, the DVD for this movie is an almost adorable early-days-of-DVD relic. If you are watching this movie on DVD, enjoy the lovely British Columbia vistas via a cut of the film that is “formatted to fit this screen”. By “this screen”, they mean an old, boxy cathode-ray tube television. And do watch the collection of trailers too. With one or two exceptions, I can promise you that you will not see a more abysmal sampler pack of terrible theatrical childrens’ films. They range from the sequel to “Baby Geniuses” (which exists) to “Soccer Dog” (which, from what I can gather from the trailer, is about a dog genetically engineered to… play soccer.)
The Best Parts:
4 minutes in – Hi, Pacey.
7 minutes in – Admittedly Clever “Star Trek” In-Joke!
Also, Pacey is going to get to drive a vehicle of some kind before the movie ends, probably during the climax.
Also, whimsical Canada is A Magical Land montage.
Also, Misplaced Horned Frog.
12 minutes in – I should mention that this movie was made in a post-“Free Willy” world.
13 minutes in – Man, the love and affection just oozes from the screen, doesn’t it?
Also, Obligatory Atmospheric Red-Tailed Hawk Cries. At night. Yep.
16 minutes in – I want that f***ing bus.
18 minutes in – Pacey, will you shut the hell up about how you can drive everything?
20 minutes in – Oh, God… “Good Son” flashbacks…
23 minutes in – By the way, Jack Black?
28 minutes in – *The “Highway Perverts” Line!*
30 minutes in – Oh, maybe those “Hawks” were actually kids falling out of this treehouse!
34 minutes in – I have dug many a deep hole in the sand by the shores of lakes. They would have hit water long ago.
36 minutes in – “And Curtis is my old drinking buddy!”
37 minutes in – Hiro and Ando?
39 minutes in – Next time I kill an entire bag of Oreos, I will blame it on my “inner dragon” or something.
43 minutes in – After a few days of this, I think I’d get anxious.
46 minutes in – Little Japanese boy starts screaming about Godzilla in three… two…
47 minutes in – The actual “joke” was different. The actual “joke” was worse. Stay classy, movie.
49 minutes in – I’m with the kids. This is no longer whimsical and heartwarming, it’s starting to get weird.
53 minutes in – “How CAN I concentrate? The whole world is AWESOME!!!”
56 minutes in – And the fun just keeps on leaving!
58 minutes in – I’m surprised that natural erosion over an approximately three-day time period didn’t already do that.
1 hour, 2 minutes in – They’ve stumbled upon the “Legends of the Hidden Temple” set!
1 hour, 4 minutes in – “For the record, I am inhabited by Littlefoot’s mother.”
1 hour, 8 minutes in – What in the hell? Did they get that thing from the G.I. Joe Villain Supply Warehouse?
1 hour, 13 minutes in – Damn shoddy construction on these monster-shaped submarines!
1 hour, 16 minutes in – Oh. I guess that’s why they never hit water.
1 hour, 18 minutes in – *Orky Finally Appears Onscreen!*
1 hour, 20 minutes in – And all we get to see is his cellulite.
1 hour, 23 minutes in – I… did not expect this to have such a colossal downer of an ending.
1 hour, 25 minutes in – Actually, showing Orky’s body to everybody might ultimately be a good thing. Think about it. An actual indisputable lake monster carcass would make the zoological community sh*t it’s collective pants. It’d prove that the Touched By Orky Support Group isn’t insane, and inspire people to take better care of the lake.
1 hour, 29 minutes in – See, this is why they should have shown Orky to everyone.
1 hour, 34 minutes in – Oh, I guess that’s the end. Huh.
“Oooh, I’m a sexy guy! / Oooh, I drive a sexy car!” – drunk guy who gets eaten by Orky before the opening titles
“They (cell phones) give you brain cancer you know.” – Ashley
“Stop whining!” – Dr. Black’s pre-Touched By Orky philosophy
“And, uh… my body was inhabited by, um….. Orky. He was in my body. At first, I was scared… and then… AMAZING!” – Frank
“Damn monster-huggers!” – the Hardies
“I guess I better find a place to sleep, safe from wild animals and highway perverts.” – Ashley
Things I Learned from this Movie:
* – Everybody loves Oreos.
* – Do not mess with ancient Native American lake-dwelling cryptid trickster god-monsters.
* – Brain damage makes you a Better Person. As does being the psychic friend of an ancient Native American lake-dwelling cryptid trickster god-monster.
* – Secretly feeding your prescription sedatives to your nurse is always a good idea.
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? Orky, the ancient Native American lake-dwelling cryptid trickster god-monster, is a pretty cool concept. The reveal that he looks like a roadkilled Sea-cow is… a disappointment.
Good Soundtrack? No.
Hot Guys? No.
Pretty Scenery? Hell yes. I want to visit British Columbia.
Nifty Animation/Effects/Art Direction? No.
Drinking Game Potential? Drink when Dr. Black’s Touched By Orky behavior stops being whimsical and starts being strange and uncomfortable.
Head Movie Potential? According to this movie, being the psychic friend of an ancient Native American lake-dwelling cryptid trickster god-monster has essentially the same affect as being stoned out of your mind.
Danny after being touched by a lake monster. And thereafter behaving in ways that scare his children.
A Tri-Star Film released in 1995. Written by Rick Stevenson and Icel Dobell Massey and directed by Rick Stevenson.
Mark Harmon, Joshua Jackson, and Sarah Wayne
Roger Ebert review
“Mee-Shee, the Water Giant” Wikipedia Page – Linked here because “Mee-Shee” and “Magic in the Water” are, for all intents and purposes, the same movie even though they aren’t. Also, the tale of the battle over the title of “Mee-Shee” is more entertaining than either movie.