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England declares war on Germany during World War I, and young Albert’s beloved horse, Joey, is sold into war service. Albert eventually enlists in order to find the horse. Viewers follow Joey through the horse’s war experience, a story drenched in golden pastoral light and striking cinematography. The film is a crowd pleaser that presents, without blood or gore, some of the real suffering of war through both battle scenes and the personal devastation wrought on civilians. Steven Spielberg has attempted to create a heartwarming, pro-troops, anti-war family film with humor and pathos. Yet War Horse is a war movie, as the PG-13 rating suggests. Think Saving Private Ryan meets Black Beauty, and you might start to see the problem—a war movie for horse-loving tweens. Sentimentality and implausibility undercut the more serious themes of the film, but saying that about this movie feels like hating on a puppy. If you decide to see it, put reality aside and just enjoy the beauty of the spectacle. But be mindful of which young people you bring along with you.

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