Review: WALKING WITH DINOSAURS

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

There is not much to be said about this visually impressive movie adaptation of the BBC television miniseries. Well, that sentence pretty much details one of the few positive aspects of this 3D film which obviously is intended for young children and has nothing to offer their mature chaperones.  The filmmakers’ blend of CGI and real landscapes look incredible, but the whole experience features grating narration, silly voiceover work and lame humor in an attempt to keep children engaged. I found the overall result frustrating and annoying. On the other hand, some of the small children in the audience giggled with delight.  Still, I think the incredible visuals would have kept the kids enchanted and mesmerized.

The movie tells the tale of a runt Pachyrhinosaurus named Packi (Justin Long) who struggles to make himself a prominent member of his family and herd. The film follows Packi from his birth to adulthood when he pursues his love Juniper (Tiya Sircar). Packi will have to prove himself worthy as a leader over his more dominant brother Scowler (Skyler Stone) during one of his family’s migrations when they encounter a fearful predator Gorgosaurus.

Kudos must be given to directors Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale and their technical crew who actually shot the locations in New Zealand and Alaska. The crew combines the locations and the CGI seamlessly and the finished product looks mostly realistic. On the downside, writer John Collee inexplicably takes a more juvenile approach to telling the story and this is highly unnecessary. The life of a dinosaur and the hazards in life that it faces are sufficient enough.  I would have found the film’s story more fascinating if the filmmakers had not taken this approach. In fact the slapstick and silly antics distract from the dinosaur factoids presented in the film.

The voice over work by Justin Long is tolerable, but the story material and character development is rather pedestrian. John Leguizamo, who voices the narrating bird Alex, uses a heavy Spanish accent for some reason, and has the silliest and most ridiculous lines and jokes in the movie. I did hear some laughter among the children in the audience with some of his material, but I’m thinking his cartoonish, over-the-top accent is what kept them giggling.

In addition, the movie has a completely unnecessary prologue and epilogue starring Karl Urban as an uncle entertaining his niece (Angourie Rice) and nephew (Charlie Rowe) by taking them on a trip in search of dinosaur fossils. Though the charming Urban is a welcome presence, his appearance and the sequences with Rowe and Rice really serve no purpose at all.

I’m sure the producers and filmmakers have a purpose with this movie, but I think their goals get lost in the poor execution. I understand the need for educational films for children, but the makers of these movies and television programs don’t always have to talk down to their audiences. I mean; let’s face it. Dinosaurs are cool. With the impressive CGI used to recreate these amazing creatures, a movie doesn’t need a goofy, slapstick animal character to sell kids that idea.

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