There’s nothing so wrong with Walking with Dinosaurs that it couldn’t be cured with judicious use of a fast-forward button. Well, the option of having a mute button would probably help in the film’s enjoyment department as well — especially if you’re an adult that’s being forced to watch it.
This Dinosaurs tale is a beautifully animated but plot-thin kids film that borrows heavily in the story department from both the Land Before Time and Ice Age movies, as well as various Disney animated classics. And there’s also a heaping helping of flatulence and other bodily function humor, something that the latter filmmakers would have frowned upon heavily.
It’s almost as if the animated adventure’s filmmakers (Arthur Christmas co-director Barry Cook and documentarian Neil Nightingale) didn’t trust what they had here. If the lowbrow aspects weren’t bad enough, they even pad things out with ridiculous, live-action sequence, in which a would-be-cool paleontologist uncle (Karl Urban, from Star Trek Into Darkness and TV’s Almost Human) takes his teen nephew and pre-teen niece on a fossil hunt in the Alaskan wilderness.
The sulky teen, Ricky (Charlie Rowe, The Golden Compass), decides to stay behind, and then runs afoul of a smart-alecky crow, Alex (voiced by John Leguizamo), that delivers a far-fetched lecture/story about the valley’s now-extinct residents.
All sorts of dinos once lived there, including Pachyrhinosauruses, a peaceful, plant-eating species. And according to Alex, one of his ancestors befriended one of them, Patchi (the voice of Justin Long, of Alvin and the Chipmunks infamy), the “runt” of a recent dino litter. Patchi also survived an encounter with a ferocious Gorgosaur, leaving him with a hole in his head plate. He also “enjoyed” a rivalry of sorts with his older brother, Scowler (Skyler Stone), as well as a potential romance with Juniper (Tiya Sircar, TV’s Witches of East End), a female dino from another Pachyrhinosaurus “tribe.”
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Patchi … and Scowler and Juniper … all face threats from various sources, including a perilous seasonal migration that leaves the brothers orphans. (Hmmm, where have we seen that before?)
Again, the animation is state-of-the-art when it comes to the dinosaur renderings and designs, all of which looks terrific when they’re integrated with background sequences that digitally re-create the ancient Alaskan wilderness. You can only imagine how things would have gone if Cook, Nightingale and screenwriter John Collee (Happy Feet) had decided to tell more straightforward version of this story, without the dopey, live-action wraparounds and the even-more-dumbed-down attempts at humor.
You can’t really blame Urban for his bored but brief performance, and you can almost hear the irritation in Long’s voice. Even he sounds annoyed by Leguizamo, whose volume is set to maximum irritation (if you thought he was bad in the Ice Age movies, you haven’t heard anything yet).
Jeff Michael Vice can also be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com), and can be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff).