‘Walking With Dinosaurs’: Run away

December 19, 2013


When my oldest son was a tot, one of the videotapes in heavy rotation on our TV was the cartoon feature, “The Land Before Time.”

In it, a group of baby dinosaurs – a brontosaurus, triceratops and a couple of others – get separated from their herd during the big migration. It’s cutesy Don Bluth animation, minus the kind of depth of imagery or story that always separated Bluth’s weak efforts from Disney animated features.

“Walking With Dinosaurs,” a 3D movie whose title suggests spending a day with the Republican leadership, is like a more expensive “Land Before Time”: bad writing, corny jokes and a weak (and familiar) plot.

The wraparound here is about an archaeologist (played by Karl Urban), who takes two kids with him on his dig in Alaska. One of the kids isn’t interested enough to leave the SUV for the dig – at least not until a talking crow lands and magically transports the viewer (though not the kid) back to prehistoric times. The bird (voiced by John Leguizamo) turns prehistoric as well, then plugs us into the life of a baby pachyrhinosaur named Patchi (Justin Long).

The story, such as it is, looks at the migration from cold to warm climate in Alaska for Patchi and his herd. They’re threatened by everything from predators to forest fires – and it’s all done with CG dinosaurs set in a real environment.

You have to admire the organizational skills of the directors: filming camera moves and angles for action that only existed in their imagination at the time. Or maybe it’s not that tough to retrofit CG action to camera moves – who knows?

The point is that, unless you’re fixated on that kind of how-to – or you’re a very young preteen – you’ll otherwise be bored by “Walking With Dinosaurs.” Or simply mystified: Why does a prehistoric bird have a Hispanic accent and talk like a pachuco? Why does Patchi sound like an American teenager?

And why are talking dinosaurs making references to ninjas and God? I hate to think what someone who doesn’t believe in evolution would make of that.

A bad script overshadows great visuals every time, a lesson Hollywood never seems to learn. Which is why we end up with movies like “Walking With Dinosaurs.”

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