If there is one thing I'll never outgrow with family films, it's an appreciation for their villains. Mind you, it is more a guilty pleasure sort of appreciation the older I get, but nonetheless, those creepy, greedy, ruthless villains will forever be enjoyed by yours truly. There is just something fantastically wicked about them that is far more interesting than other movie bad-guys. Perhaps it is their one-dimensionality, which keeps them even less human and therefore less worthy of empathy. Perhaps it is because they kidnap dogs, trap aliens, hunt endangered species and would easily harm a child for a buck, but at the end of the day they consistently reek of cowardice. Regardless of plot, regardless of budget, and regardless of how many kids they have to take on, they have been one of the most dependable standards in the history of film.
In Mee-Shee: The Water Giant, which is being shown as part of the Tribeca Family Film Festival, the villains are two representatives (Charles Mesure and Joel Tobeck) of an evil oil-drilling company. The funny thing is I have to stress that they are from the evil oil-drilling company, because there is actually a good oil-drilling company, which is rare in the typically environment-friendly genre (to be fair, though, the good-guys quit their company in the end anyway). At first they are on a mission to sabotage and steal from their rival, but when it is discovered that the lake they're working in is the home of a giant sea creature, their goal quickly turns to a capture-and-profit scheme. On hand to thwart their plan, and, of course, befriend the creature, is Mac Cambell (Daniel Magder). Mac has traveled up to Canada with his father, Sean (Bruce Greenwood), whose company's drill bit has sunk to the bottom of the lake. While dad searches for the bit in his deep-diving submarine, Mac makes friends with a local Native American girl (Jacinta Wawatai) and explores the land, specifically a small tunnel that leads to the creature's cave.
Mee-Shee was directed by John Henderson, a filmmaker who is no stranger to sea monsters. He previously made Loch Ness, which the IMDB claims was one of the most costly TV-movies of all time because it was originally expected to show in theaters. With more than twice that film's budget (supposedly $27 million), Mee-Shee is still too cheap-looking to receive a proper release and is expected to go directly to video. The problem is mostly with the special effects, which look to be half-computer-generated and half-animatronic. Designed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, they suffer from a failed attempt to make Mee-Shee realistic. Gone are the days in which creatures could just look like puppets and nobody minded. Now most of the time they don't look real-enough or fake-enough. On the plus-side, kids aren't going to care enough about the quality of effects to enjoy Mee-Shee any less.