Starring : John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Tiya Sircar, Skyler Stone
Director : Neil Nightingale and Barry Cook
Release Date : 19 Dec 2013
Based on the acclaimed BBC documentary, this animated dinosaur feature is one for the kids.
I WALKED with dinosaurs once. Although to be fair, I was the one who was doing most of the walking – the dinosaur models at the exhibition just sort of stood around roaring.
I even talked to the dinosaurs as well, though they never really talked back, unlike the ones in this film.
From the touching The Land Before Time (I’m conveniently ignoring the fact that there was a Land Before Time 2 to 13 as well) to 1980s’ cartoon Dinosaucers (dinosaurs from space firing laser guns!), talking dinosaurs are nothing new.
What Walking With Dinosaurs: The Movie (WWD) reminded me the most of, however, was Disney’s 2000 animated film Dinosaur. That film also featured almost photorealistic renditions of dinosaurs, generally lumbering around and talking, mostly in American accents. I remember watching that film and thinking, “Ooh, I didn’t know dinosaurs could talk, and that their lips could move that way! Hey, wait a minute ...”
Well, WWD also goes the photo-realistic talking dinosaur route, but fortunately, the dinosaurs here don’t have moving lips.
Set in the late Cretaceous period some 70 million years ago, the plot of the movie revolves around a Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (Justin Long) as he grows from infanthood to adulthood, embarking on a migratory journey (well, several journeys, actually) with the rest of the herd, which includes his friend Alex (an Alexornis bird voiced by John Leguizamo), his brother Scowler (Skyler Stone), and a female Pachyrhinosaurus named Juniper (Tiya Sircar).
Probably one of the best dinosaur-related movies in recent times is Ice Age, which at least didn’t even pretend it was based on actual science. Since it is actually based on the acclaimed documentary television miniseries that was produced by BBC however, the pressure is on WWD to remain scientifically sound while delivering a movie that actually has a plot.
Roaring dinosaurs and epic dinosaur battles are all very exciting, but the film would have been slower than an obese Triceratops if that was all it had.
Now, plots involving dinosaurs can be tricky, especially when your lead characters are herbivores like the Pachyrhinosaurus – all they do is lumber around munching leaves, headbutting each other occasionally, and then trundle en masse during their seasonal migrations.
Sure, they have to fight off attacks by the dreaded Gorgosaurus occasionally, but still, most Pachyrhinosaurus migrations would probably make the Fellowship of the Ring’s trudge through Middle-earth seem like The Fast And The Furious.
So, what is a film producer to do then? Why, give his main man a love interest, of course!
This is where the film started to go downhill for me. Up till Juniper is introduced, I was quite happy with the way WWD was turning out so far.
Sure, it probably has the lamest dialogue this side of the Cretaceous period (Leguizamo’s lines were especially bad. We miss Sid the sloth already.) and the live-action intro featuring Karl Urban as the world’s most unconvincing palaeontologist was pretty cringe-worthy, but at least the dinosaurs were gorgeously animated, and their lips didn’t move when they were talking.
I also liked how they introduced each new dinosaur documentary-style, with a caption stating its name, meaning of the name, and whether it’s an herbivore, omnivore, or a carnivore.
But with the introduction of a love interest, incredulity started to set in.
Our hero’s intentions were overshadowed by his love, whatever credibility the film had had been muddled, and by the time Patchi rose to his inevitable “leader of the herd” status, I was already wishing a Gorgosaurus would turn up with a lasergun and shoot every Pachyrhinosaurus in sight.
Then again, this film probably wasn’t meant for cynical, jaded adults like me. If this had come out when I was about seven to 10 years old, that dinosaur-loving version of me would have loved this film to bits. With its child-friendly dialogue and awesome images of those terrible lizards, Walking With Dinosaurs is strictly for the kids.