War Horse

Rated 3.0

Adapted from a novel, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse has a wealth of narrative hooks, but it’s not a very strong or even coherent story overall. The war-horse angle is there as a framework, something on which to string a series of sketchy anecdotes about ownership, authority, nobility, animal love and the inhumanity of Anglo-European “civilization” circa 1914. Ultimately, it’s a “horse story,” but one in which the horrifying historic backdrop is treated mostly as a colossal inconvenience for Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved steed. Much of it feels like a rather congested pastiche of classic Old Hollywood. Saccharine sentimentality prevails early on, and after an absurdly catastrophic collision with modern warfare, the picture limps into its anthology of miscellaneous anecdotes about the assorted folk—a British cavalry officer, two German deserters, an elderly Belgian farmer, a British corporal—who take temporary charge of Albert’s eponymous horse. The liveliest sequences come near the end, and one of them is devoted entirely to the horse’s flight from and through a calamitous battle scene. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13 J.C.S.