Review: Walking With Dinosaurs
PLOT: WALKING WITH DINOSAURS follows Patchi and his dinosaur clan on a prehistoric adventure. Along the way they face foes from other animals as well as a dangerous fire and an ever-changing world which will eventually lead to their end.
You’d think a movie entitled WALKING WITH DINOSAURS would be a majestic experience. Too bad this trip to a prehistoric past is so damn dumb. The movie opens up with Karl Urban as Uncle Zack bringing his teenage nephew and his young niece on a digging expedition. Apparently the obnoxious teen has grown tired of dinosaurs – I can’t blame him after this flick – and he chooses to wait by the truck. Once he is alone, a bird flies down and lands on the vehicle to start a conversation. Sounding an awful lot like John Leguizamo, his new feathered pal immediately begins lecturing the boy on how important it is to know about… well, I’m sure you can figure that out. Alas, we are suddenly transported into a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth and apparently were pretty irritating.
The story revolves around Patchi (Justin Long) a young runt of a dinosaur who is injured early on when a bigger and meaner dino attacks. He has a bully of an older brother named Scowler (Skyler Stone) who picks on him every chance he gets. The short running time finds this large pack of prehistoric beasts migrating throughout the entire movie. Tragedy happens. Scowler becomes a leader. Patchi finds romance with Juniper (Tiya Sircar) and a little bit of a love triangle ensues. And we mustn’t forget the wraparound story of a young teen that needs to learn it is cool to dig – literally and figuratively – the prehistoric age.
With only a few of the animals talking, it seems a bit of a joke as their father just roars and grunts. Aside from the bird – who is a relative to Leguizamo’s feathered friend – only the three lead dinosaurs can talk. This fact certainly won’t bother the younger viewers, but like everything else in the script by John Collee, it just felt like lazy storytelling. And speaking of lazy, why do the voices of the dinosaurs that do talk never change at all? Justin Long sounds like Justin Long as a runt of an animal as well as an adult who must protect his kind. Usually when animated characters grow, so do the actors playing them. Apparently Long’s Patchi – as well as the few other talking animals – sound like an adult from their birth. This may be nitpicking, but this was a really grating aspect of these dismally dull characters.
In an effort to educate as well as entertain, the filmmakers have an interesting – and by that I mean maddening – way to teach about the kinds of dinosaurs that are in the film. They freeze frame on whatever animal it is and with the help of a title card as well as a young voice actor, it explains exactly what you are looking at. Clearly it would be difficult to explain this any other way, but as a viewer trying to get through this story it is distracting. Perhaps this would be a great way to educate your children but it would probably be more beneficial to watch the WAKING WITH DINOSAURS documentary from 1999. At least you wouldn’t be sidetracked by the painfully dopey story and script.
The dialogue may be inane and the characters paper thin but this educational children’s flick does have one thing going for it, the effects are impressive. Co-directors Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale work magic together by bringing the viewer on an impressive visual journey. Using Cook’s talent with animation and Nightingale’s skilled documentarian background, they definitely have the look of the film right. Working with 3D animation they manage to give life to Patchi and his clan, enough so that the young ones will enjoy themselves a hell of a lot more than the parents will.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS is visually remarkable but you’d be better off to just rent the original documentary if you want anything more than that. That way you don’t have to put up with the insipidly stupid characters and of course don’t forget the occasional poop joke. It’s a shame really as this could have been a spectacular as well as an educational movie going experience for the whole family. The animation department deserved a better story and script than this.