Walking With Dinosaurs film better off extinct

This article first appeared on Film Blerg.

Fans of the BBC television series Walking With Dinosaurswill enjoy seeing their favourite prehistoric creatures come to life on the big screen. It’s unlikely, however, that the cinematic manifestation of the documentary will meet their expectations. Yes, the computer animation is in the same ball park asJurassic Park, but tacky work on the cutting room floor may destine this feature to a premature DVD release.

Walking-With-Dinosaurs-The-3D-Movie

Walking With Dinosaurs: The Movie begins hitting wrong notes before we even see our first dinosaur, with directors Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale commencing – and closing – the film with a conversation between two children and their palaeontologist uncle. These superfluous scenes are filled with shoddy acting and unrealistic dialogue, which is a shame given the educational value of the original Walking With Dinosaurs series.

Once the dinosaurs replace the humans on screen, the film starts finding its groove. We meet Patchi (Justin Long), a baby Pachyrhinosaurus trying to discover his identity, and find love. It’s a pleasant premise for a family film, which is unfortunately undermined by Cook and Nightingale’s questionable decision to accompany the film with distracting voiceovers.

In line with the original documentary series, it is somewhat relieving to find that the dinosaurs of this film don’t speak English. However, the inclusion of character voiceovers – which don’t even make an attempt to sync with the movements of the dinosaurs’ mouths – may make the audience wish the dinosaurs did. The shoddy effect feels like an afterthought – as though the filmmakers decided at the eleventh hour that they wanted the dinosaurs to talk, but were too lazy to re-animate them. The result resembles what might happen were the tapes of the BBC television series mixed up with tapes of Meerkat Manor.

Less annoying than the voiceovers are the narrations given by omniscient Alex (John Leguizamo), and the freeze-frame introductions used whenever a new dinosaur enters the frame. Unfortunately neither meet the benchmarks previously set by BBC’s Kenneth Branagh. While Cook and  should be commended for trying to maintain the credibility of Walking With Dinosaurs as an educational franchise, these features add little to the audience experience. By film’s end, the audience is likely to retain little of what they’ve been taught about dinosaurs by the narrators.

What audiences – both young and old – will remember are the beautifully animated sequences of the dinosaurs migrating, hunting, and of course wreaking havoc. On multiple occasions, we get to watch our protagonist and his fellow Pachyrhinosaurus leads fight. More often than not he is defeated, but these scenes help foster Patchi’s growth as a character. As such, fans able to tolerate the voiceover and the human cameos which bookend the film may well leave the cinema satisfied by the narrative arc, and the love story between Patchi and Juniper (Tiya Sircar).

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