Making the Grades
Based on the classic story, Black Beauty follows the life of a horse (played by Docs Keepin Time - an American Quarter Horse) from birth to retirement, as seen from the horse's point of view (his voice is provided by Alan Cumming). His joys and trials are really dependent on who his owner is, and the treatment that he is receiving. These experiences range from a wealthy family that cares for him in grand fashion to a man that uses him to haul loads of grain far heavier than the horse should be pulling.
There are those that may argue that this is a film overflowing in sentimental rubbish, and that no one knows how a horse really feels. However, I found it a pleasant change to see a horse movie that addresses the needs of the animals, even if it still is a human interpretation. Of course, a horse cannot write a screenplay, but I grow tired of movies like The Silver Stallion and The Man From Snowy River. It seems the entire point of these and many other films is that man can overcome and break the horse.
Black Beauty is full of people that rule the horse, but it allows the viewer to realize that animals are often treated like machinery, especially during the days of Victorian England, when this film is set. Other worthwhile themes appear as well. When Beauty is working for a cab driver in London, his home is very simple, yet the love of the driver and his family far makes up for his lodgings. Later Beauty is discovered by a Joe (Ian Kelsey), who was just a boy (Andrew Knott) when he cared for a younger Beauty at the horse's his first home. By now the abused and neglected animal is a rack of bones, but Joe still realizes the beauty that is within.
Probably the biggest problem this film poses for children is the emotional experience it presents. As you watch it with them be sensitive to how they may feel. This is a sad movie and children may be troubled by Beauty's experiences. Still the tale may also help them come away with an increased sensitivity for the treatment of animals.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Black Beauty.