Directed by: Barry Cook (Arthur Christmas), Neil Nightingale
Starring: (Voices) John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Skyler Stone, Tiya Sircar
Over the course of any given year, it is inevitable that I will encounter some truly dire movies, but Walking with Dinosaurs is a special kind of dire. I nodded off (for a second or two) at least six times over the course of the film, so it’s fair to say that I found the experience both boring and incredibly soporific. (I would not suggest operating heavy machinery while watching this.) But more to the point, I couldn’t make out just who the movie was made for. It looks for all the world like something that got lost on its way to the Discovery Channel and wandered into a movie theater — but not before falling into bad company and picking up a case of mind-numbing plot and a dose of bodily function humor. In other words, it’s an educational show with the addition of a moronic plot and a lot of poop and flatulence gags. I suppose if you’re wild about dinosaurs, the film might have sufficient compensations — unless you feel that your prehistoric pals are being made fools of.
I admit I am not the target audience for this. My fascination with dinosaurs cooled so long ago that today’s take on them bears little relation to the plastic critters in my toy chest, and most of them seem to be using aliases now. (I am assuming here — since the movie is somehow derived from an educational BBC TV series — that the looks and names are the latest science has to offer.) I will say that the computer animation of these creatures is first-rate, and the business of blending them into real backgrounds is effective. But is that enough? I mean there’s nothing here I haven’t seen before — and, no, the 3D doesn’t make that much difference. In fact, the 3D isn’t especially impressive.
The approach here is to move from a completely superfluous live-action framing story where paleontologist Uncle Zack (Karl Urban) takes his gung-ho niece (Angourie Rice) and bored nephew (Charlie Rowe) into the wilds of Alaska to dig for fossils. Bored nephew wants no part of such childish nonsense — until a talking crow (voiced by John Leguizamo) shows up, turns into some prehistoric budgie and regales him — and us — with the story that makes up the bulk of the movie. The story is all about Patchi (voiced by Justin Long), the runt of the litter of a family of Pachyrhinosauri (something like a triceratops that got short-changed in the horn department). This tale is your basic little-guy empowerment story — The Little Dino That Could — with some daddy issues and Disney romance thrown in.
And it’s not only dull, it’s badly and inconsistently done. There’s so little attempt at making these fellows appear to be talking that I’m not sure the dialogue wasn’t a clunky afterthought. Plus, only a bare handful of the damned things talk — namely, the juvenile leads and the Leguizamo bird. Why? I don’t know and I don’t much care, because none of them say anything worth hearing — and most of what they say is anachronistic smart assery. (I feel fairly certain that, if dinosaurs did indeed talk, they didn’t discuss what Paleological era they were in or refer to ninjas.) When I was a kid, my toy dinosaurs fought it out with each other or trampled cavemen (just like a Creationist theme park) with none of this silly chatter (and no Barry White or Fleetwood Mac for atmosphere). Frankly, I preferred that to this bastard-child-of-nature documentary and animated cartoon. Rated PG for creature action and peril, and mild rude humor.
Playing at Regal Biltmore Grande