D: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale / 87m
Cast: John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Tiya Sircar, Skyler Stone, Karl Urban, Charlie Rowe, Angourie Rice
Taking his kids Ricky (Rowe) and Jade (Rice) to an archaeological dig, Zack (Urban) fails to engage a reluctant Ricky into moving far from the car. While he waits for his dad and sis to come back, Ricky is greeted by a talking bird, Alex (Leguizamo). Alex chides Ricky for his lack of interest in the past and begins to tell him a story set 70 million years before, the story of Patchi (Long), a pachyrhinosaurus. Born the runt of a litter, Patchi has trouble fitting in, especially with his brother Scowler (Stone); they are at odds from day one. After a run-in with a predator leaves him with a hole in his frill, Patchi’s efforts to fit in become even harder. When the weather changes, an older Patchi must join his herd on a great migration; thus begins Patchi’s road to acceptance not only by the herd, but by his brother and by love interest Juniper (Sircar).
Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is a mash-up of The Land Before Time (1988) and The Incredible Journey (1963). The mix of live action and CGI is impressive, with several of the dinosaurs achieving a level of photo-realism that bodes well for the forthcoming Jurassic World (2015). Their “interaction” with the real world is well-staged and handled, and there is a pleasing sense of verisimilitude throughout. Taking its cue from the BBC TV series of the same name, Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie looks amazing from start to finish (and in 3D it looks even better – despite being converted in post-production). The detail is nothing less than breathtaking. The backgrounds, shot in Alaska and New Zealand, are spectacular, and add a pleasing sense of scope to the movie despite its (relatively) small budget of $85m.
What isn’t so pleasing, however, is the script by John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Happy Feet), a dialogue-driven disaster that manages to make dinosaurs seem un-cool and almost entirely lame in their pea-brained outlook. That their lips don’t deliberately move in sync with their lines isn’t as distracting as the fact that what’s being said is so childish and immature (it’s actually amazing there isn’t a fart gag in there somewhere). While Leguizamo fares better than the rest, even he can’t pull off some of his dialogue, and Long is saddled with some of the dopiest, silliest lines he may ever have to deal with. Granted Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is meant to be a children’s movie, but do kids really respond to, or appreciate, this level of half-baked, jokey, verbal simplicity? If I was over the age of eight and watching this movie I might feel so insulted I’d want to chuck my popcorn at the screen in protest.
With things so hampered by the script, everything else suffers. The plotting and story arcs are simplistic and predictable, the characterisations equally so, and the sense of danger provided by a pursuing trio of Gorgosauruses is never allowed to accrue too much tension. Directors Cook and Nightingale at least ensure that things move along at a decent pace (helped by their editor, John Carnochan), but fail to inject much of note into proceedings. The photography, as already mentioned, is impressive, and the scenery often breathtaking, but these aspects are unable to offer a distraction from the awkwardness of the movie as a whole.
Rating: 5/10 – saved from a lower score by its visuals, Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie is a movie that will probably impress very young children, but will frustrate teens and adults alike; a missed opportunity that sounds as if the producers lost faith in it somewhere during the production.