It's a given that horse-crazy 9-year-old girls, the same ones who spend dreamy hours sketching picture after picture of the creatures gamboling through fields, will love this film version of Anna Sewell's classic 1877 novel about that most noble of stallions. How could they not when there are horses in nearly every shot? But what about the rest of us?
There will be no neigh-saying here. As animal pictures go, Black Beauty is a pip, far outclassing such recent entries as Lassie or Free Willy. As nonanimal films go, it's still pretty good. Told entirely from its equine hero's point of view, this handsome film, set in Victorian England, ably conveys the precariousness of Black Beauty's well-being, dependent as it is upon the benevolence of his owners. (Thewlis, last seen as the nasty wanderer in Naked, is particularly impressive as a kind master.) Even the most hard-hearted viewer will be moved by the reunion scene between Black Beauty and Ginger, the mare of his dreams.
Note: Very young children may have a tough time with such scenes as a stable fire, whippings and the death of one of the horses. (G)