Rating: 2/ 5
While there have been a slew of animated dinosaur movies, such as ‘The Land before Time’ (1988), ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (2000) and the ‘Ice Age’ series, ‘Walking With Dinosaurs The Movie’ is unlike its predecessors.
Named after the six-part documentary TV mini-series originally produced by the BBC in the late ’90s, the film adaptation is set 70 million years ago in the late cretaceous period and is chock full of, well, dinosaurs. From predators and prey, tiny bird-like creatures and massive plant-eaters, it has them all.
It combines the action-packed fervour of ‘Jurassic Park’, with all-American humour in the form of talking dinosaurs.
Barry Cook ('Mulan') co-directs with Neil Nightingale, a documentary director at BBC Earth, while the script is by John Collee ('Happy Feet').
John Leguizamo (‘Ice Age’, ‘Moulin Rouge’), as Alex the chatty prehistoric bird, serves as the narrative voice, giving a humorous blow by blow account of Pachi the Pachyrhinosaurus’ (Justin Long, ‘Alvin And The Chipmunks’) adventures as he grows up in front of the audience’s eyes.
As the runt of the litter, he develops from underdog to awkward young adult to the leader of the herd. There’s even a love interest, Juniper (Tiya Sircar, ‘The Internship’) and a jock-type older brother, Scowler (Skyler Stone) thrown into the mix.
Talking dinosaurs should remain in animated cartoon children's films
Besides its cinematic elements, the film tries to be educational by freeze-framing dinosaurs, naming them (even providing a translation of their names) and telling you whether they are an herbivore, omnivore or carnivore.
Sometimes they even tell you how much a dinosaur weighed, how tall it was and how many teeth it had.
It comes across as heavy-handed, getting in the way of entertaining the audience.
The real highlight of the film is the animation and stunning visual effects imposed against live action backgrounds shot in New Zealand and Alaska. The authenticity of the dinosaurs and the vistas on which they roam, make for some extremely convincing and lifelike animation work.
The CGI work is stellar and makes for stunning scenes of dinosaurs roaming the earth
The experience is heightened by the 3D visuals, making you feel like you are literally, walking with the dinosaurs. With every scale and eyelash, tooth and claw brought to life, you feel like you are among the herd as they move.
BUT DINOSAURS WITH HUMAN VOICES JUST DON'T WORK
However, the addition of adult human voices is awkward and clunky. And when the dinosaurs speak, their mouths don't move. It’s all a little bit absurd.
Coupled with a confused soundtrack, that has inexplicable upbeat pop music and sweeping string arrangements, you get the feeling that the filmmakers were trying to Hollywood-ise a successful documentary for the sake of it.
The animation is enough to carry the film, and the tacky voiceovers and dialogue just mars it. While the original series was informative, and intelligent, the movie version is miles apart, reduced to a bumbling storyline. The filmmakers would have done better to make a souped up, IMAX 3D version of the miniseries, sans talking.
This film is definitely one for the children. It’s thrilling when a massive, razor-toothed predatory dinosaur gnashes its teeth in close proximity to your face. But even kids are better off watching the original series on DVD.