How many kids spent their childhood reading about and loving dinosaurs? The giant beasts that roamed our planet millions of years ago have always had a place in the hearts and minds of kids (and lets face it, many adults). Be it Jurassic Park or The Land Before Time, the world is filled with awesome dinosaur movies for people to marvel at, and now Walking With Dinosaurs – The Movie looks to join that rich tradition. With its timeless (albeit cliché) story and outstanding visuals make this a movie that while may not be on the same level as others in the genre, is still an entertaining and fun outing.
After taking a trip with his uncle (who happens to be played by Karl Urban) a teenage boy who has long since grown out of the “dinosaurs are awesome” phase in life is told an amazing story of the past by a talking crow.After the brief introduction, we are taken back to the late Cretaceous Period, to a herd of Pachyrhinosaurus (think Triceratops with no horns) and more specifically, the runt of a new born litter – Patchy (voiced by Justin Long).
Being the runt of the litter, Patchy isn’t quite as good at… well anything as his siblings. He is smaller, slower, weaker and a little on the clumsy side. Basically he is your stereotypical kid’s movie underdog character – someone for the kids to root for.
As is expected in a children’s movie. Patchy eventually falls head over heels for a girl from another tribe. The two are separated until a terrible tragedy pushes them together. In the midst of a migration, a fire causes Patchy and his older brother Scowler to be separated from their herd. Their father charges in to save his two sons, and in the process ends up embroiled in a fierce battle with a predator that doesn’t end too well for our herbivore friend.
Patchy’s life seems to be a series of unfortunate events, as after his father dies, Patchy, Scowler and the new love-interest Juniper are left on their own, forcing Patchy to mature and take up the mantle as a leader. On their way back to their herd, Patchy and Juniper encounter a wide variety of different dinoraurs, both Herbivore and Carnivore and their adventure causes the two to grow stronger.
Kids are going to absolutely love this movie. The dinosaurs are all awesomely presented on-screen and while the story is very tired and cliché for adults, the underdog protagonist and the love-interest sub plot will manage to enrapture and entertain.The film’s narrator, Alex splices in a whole bunch of character and humanity to the proceedings, and will throw in a couple of one-liners that kids will absolutely love. Lines like “combining the grace of ballet with… the stupidity of smashing into things.” While a bit campy for adults, are likely to be side-splitters for kids.
There is one thing that Walking with Dinosaurs does differently to other kid’s dino-films like “The Land Before Time” or “We’re Back!” and that is that it also serves as a semi-educational film. Whenever a new dinosaur is introduced, the screen will freeze and we will be given a some information about the beast like its name, its origin and what kind of food it likes to eat. It is a pretty cool addition that is implemented without breaking up the plot too much and will leave viewers having learned something by the time the credits roll (even I learned a thing or two about the Ankylosaur just by watching this movie)
There is no doubt that Walking with Dinosaurs is an absolutely beautiful film. The entire film is computer generated, but it is almost impossible to tell when watching it. The dinosaurs and the backdrops all look absolutely amazing and at times it can really be difficult to tell that they aren’t in fact real.
We aren’t just talking about one or two dinosaurs here either, but whole herds of giant beasts on screen at once, all living and breathing on screen together. The film’s 10+ dinosaur species all look exactly like we imagine they would have looked back when they ruled over the lands. It is also important to note that many of your traditional dinosaurs have been left out in favour of some more obscure predators like the Gorgosaurus or the Alphadon. Kids will love seeing new dinosaurs and these help to distinguish Walking With Dinosaurs from other films in the genre.
The voice-work for this movie is really enjoyable, if not a little bare-bones. Of all the characters in the movie, only seven actually speak English… and three of these are the human characters that bookend the story. The cast is lead by John Leguizamo, who plays Alex the Alexornis bird/narrator of the film. He brings a lot of fun to the outing through not only his voice but the way his passion shines through the dialogue.
Justin Long (of Dodgeball fame) jumps into the recording booth as the film’s protagonist Patchy. Long’s boyish charm leads itself perfectly to the roll as Patchy. You can actually believe in the clumsy young runt and it is all due to Young’s performance.
One of the film’s major problems is the fact that when the characters speak to one another, their mouths don’t move which make it look like a cheap dubbed over foreign film. It is a little disappointing considering how pretty the visuals are to see them falter here.
Walking with Dinosaurs is a visual spectical and educational experience for kids but it is far from a perfect movie. It has a tired and clichéd plot that adults will find themselves struggling though in order to appease the kids (who admittedly will probably love this). The voice cast all do a phenomenal job, but the fact that there are only really four characters that talk makes this all feel bare-bones.
With its visual style and high attention to detail, viewers will want to pick this one up on Blu-Ray or Digital HD (the latter of which allows you to watch movies before they officially release in-stores and can also be watched on any of your smart-phone/PC/just about anything else) so that you retain the beauty and quality of this movie.
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