[Screen It]


(2013) (voices of Justin Long, John Leguizamo) (PG)

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Animated Action: Two dinosaur brothers vie for the affections of a female dinosaur and for control of their herd.
In the modern day, a paleontologist named Zack (KARL URBAN) travels into the Alaskan wilderness with his cynical teenage nephew, Ricky (CHARLIE ROWE), and adventurous niece, Jade (ANGOURIE RICE), to look for dinosaur fossils. While Zack and Jade traipse off, Ricky stays behind to text and relax. But a magical bird named Alex (voice of JOHN LEGUIZAMO) flies in and reminds him how cool he used to find dinosaur bones and history when he was younger.

The film then flashes back to an age when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. We meet Patchi (voice of JUSTIN LONG), the smallest of a litter of Pachyrhinosauruses. He lacks confidence and coordination and is often teased and pushed around by his older, stronger, and braver brother, Scowler (voice of SKYLER STONE). Patchi also falls in love with another dinosaur, Juniper (voice of TIYA SIRCAR), from a neighboring herd.

Unfortunately, during migration, Patchi's father leads them into a raging forest fire that drives them right into the waiting claws and jaws of a group of predatory Gorgosauruses. With their parents killed, Scowler eventually takes control of the herd, claims Juniper as his mate, and relegates Patchi to the back of the pack. His egotistical leadership, though, brings the herd more peril than promise and soon the two brothers are vying for control of the dinos' destiny.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Ah, "Walking With Dinosaurs." What a completely strange experience! No, seriously, in a time when so many films seem SO calculated, so put together by focus groups, so carefully calibrated to play to the masses, you don't get that many true cinematic oddities anymore. Here is a film that began as a cross between "Jurassic Park" ... and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!" But at the same time, it also wants to be a sort of quasi-science documentary for elementary school kids. AND it is completely obsessed with poop and puke jokes! If this film were made in committee, who was on this committee?! Spielberg, Santa, and Booger from "Revenge of the Nerds?"

Here is a film that goes to great lengths in rendering some of the most amazingly detailed animated dinosaurs ever captured on film. Furthermore, the filmmakers didn't go the easy route by giving us a story of T-rexes, brontosauruses, and raptors. Every few minutes, the movie freeze frames when a different dino is introduced and gives us the stats on such obscure creatures as Gorgosauruses, Pachyrhinosauruses, Edmontosauruses, Troodons, and Quetzalcoatluses.

It then plunks them down into an inane tale of Patchi (voice of Justin Long), a nerdy, outcast reindeer ... er, Pachyrhinosaurus, who is ostracized by the other members of his herd for his red nose ... er, hole in his ear, who befriends a loner dentist elf ... er, sarcastic, loner bird and falls in love with a kind-hearted, understanding doe ... er, female dinosaur (voice of Tiya Sircar) who teaches them that there's always a tomorrow. Have I mentioned that the bird, Alex (voice of John Leguizamo), narrates the tale, and appears in both the live-action opening and closing of this film set today 70 MILLION YEARS LATER!

OK, it's not a direct lift from "Rudolph" (did I mention that the biggest and baddest Bumble ... um, dinosaur is defeated only when his teeth are knocked out?) Patchi has some serious sibling rivalry with his brother Scowler (voice of Skyler Stone) -- a rivalry that only intensifies after a pack of Gorgosauruses slaughter their mom, dad, and family. Weirdly, the film mixes in real-life survival material and fairly ferocious "Jurassic Park"-like dino action sequences (in jaw-snapping 3-D) with broadly played moments in which Patchi gets defecated on by a larger dinosaur, in which he and his siblings eat regurgitated leaves that their momma puked up, and so forth.

The biggest distraction, though, is how weird the film is when it comes to having the dinosaurs "talk" to each other. The animators don't animate the mouths. So, the various dinosaurs communicate via a sort of telepathy, I guess. It takes a good 20 or so minutes to get past this on screen. It's just weird! Then, it's even weirder that the fully grown dinosaurs never really speak in the film. They grunt and roar, while the teen dinosaurs carry on like they are sifting through various love triangles at the local shopping mall.

So, you not only get lines like "You're about to get served!" "I feel ya" and "Oooh, you're crushing hard," you also get Patchi trying to work his way through asking the girl out and fumbling for the right things to say. The whole time, we continue to get factoids and scientific trivia about the era of time we're watching and all of the new creatures our main protagonists are stumbling across. So, they're trying to "keep it real" while not really having much faith that their young audience members will sit for a straight-up serious scientific effort. Of course, if this were played realistically, Patchi's inner monologue would probably go something like: "Hmmmm, that's a good-looking female over there. I think I'll take her by force."

If you are just an animation junkie and want to see the next step of photo-realism among big-screen cartoons, there is some value in seeing this. The best target audience for this will probably be deaf paleontologists. Everyone else can sit this one out. I give it a 3 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed December 14, 2013 / Posted December 20, 2013

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