Walking with Dinosaurs 3D
What It Is
Teenage Ricky (Charlie Rowe) has nothing good to say about the vacation he’s about to spend with his little sister Jade (Angourie Rice) and their paleontologist Uncle Zack (Karl Urban). Riding out to a dig site in Alaska, Ricky pouts in the back seat, then refuses to go along to look for teeth and bones. Just as his family disappears over a ridge, Ricky is accosted by a bird named Alex (voiced by John Leguizamo), who scolds the boy for his disinterest and then offers an 80-minute lesson in the ancient history of dinosaurs, hosted by an ancient, red-feathered version of himself (also voiced by Leguizamo) and focused on a young Pachyrhinosaurus unimaginatively named Patchi (Justin Long).
Here begins the walking with dinosaurs part of Walking With Dinosaurs, a movie much transformed from its inspiration, the 1999 BBC miniseries that had the great idea of watching dinosaurs walk. Here they also talk — a lot — and in so doing, are rather like any other animated creature of late, eager to please and loud, a little too desperately anthropomorphized. Alex and Patchi both narrate: “It’s my story,” says the dinosaur, while the bird insists, “I have a neutral perspective.” Neither statement is completely true, but it allows both to do a lot more talking.
This talking has mostly to do with the Pachyrhinosaurus herd’s activities, how they migrate every year in search of food, how they fight off or succumb to natural enemies. These would be, apart from cold or heat, other dinosaurs, primarily Gorgosauruses, who have big teeth and tiny arms (about which Alex makes repeated fun); they also don’t speak, so you never get an idea of how they think about the dinosaurs they seek to eat, or whether they have families and legacies and love lives.
Patchi, on the other hand, has a family (mom and dad) and a bully of an older brother, Scowler (Skyler Stone). He also finds a girlfriend, the very sweet, very supportive Juniper (Tiya Sircar), with whom he learns not only to be independent and generous, but also brave, helpful because he starts the film thinking he’s brave, though really he’s rather naïve. These relationships take various shapes during more than one year’s worth of walks; the first includes the most traumatic incident, the death of Patchi and Scowler’s father, and the others are considerably shorter in terms of screen time, reduced to montages, with a focus on single incidents, like a fight between Scowler and Patchi.
Will the brothers resolve their differences? Will Juniper sort out where her own allegiances lie? Will Alex return to the framing story and find Ricky to be a transformed young man, more appreciative of dinosaur lore? I bet you can guess the answers.
Why It’s Fun
Any movie that features dinosaurs is fun by definition. That this one tries too hard to make the dinosaurs like every other creature in any other animated movie is too bad, for the different approach by the source material was not only original but also entertaining.
The animation is fine, even with the burden of wearing 3D glasses.
The Ricky and Uncle Zack conflict has nothing to do with anything, a framing story that serves no purpose.
Who’s Going To Love It
Kids and other viewers who love dinosaurs — and who doesn’t? — will enjoy the varieties, the names, and the details about what they ate and how they lived.
What To Be Aware Of
In its double-underlined efforts to educate young viewers, the movie doesn’t shy away from the fact that dinosaurs fought and ate each other. A couple of scenes feature a scary scene (and in the interest of double-underlining, Alex observes, “Every good story has a scary part”), in which Patchi and Scowler’s father is killed by a team of Gorgosauruses; the scene is upsetting, and the death is reflected in Patchi’s eye in close-up, so as both to distance the violence from viewers and impress upon them Patchi’s emotional distress.
Patchi’s initial interest in Juniper is accompanied by a Barry White song.
Beware the poop jokes. As the dinosaurs spend most of their time walking and eating, it makes sense that they would make waste, but still... the movie offers up more than its fair share of jokes about pooping, falling or stepping in poop, smelling like poop, taking a poop shower, and oh yes, vomiting too.
5 out of 10
Walking with Dinosaurs 3D
Directors: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale
Cast: Karl Urban, Angourie Rice, Charlie Rowe, Justin Long, John Leguizamo, Tiya Sircar, Skyler Stone
Studio: 20th Century Fox
US General Release: December 20, 2013
UK General Release: December 19, 2013