Published Dec 19, 2013The movie posters for Jurassic Park famously stated it was "an adventure 65 million years in the making." Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale's Walking with Dinosaurs 3D is a tad longer, being that it's set in the Cretaceous period some 70 million years before our time, yet it appears those few million extra years weren't enough. Before the adventure even fully begins, viewers bear witness to some of the worst dialogue seen in a family film in recent memory.
The film starts with a teenager named Ricky (Charlie Rowe) being forced, along with his younger sister, on a prehistoric dig with their hunky paleontologist uncle, Zack (Star Trek Into Darkness' Karl Urban). Suffering from a serious case of the too-cool-for-schools, Ricky decides to stick around by the car while the rest of his family goes off on their adventure. That's when a magical Hispanic crow named Alex (voiced by John Leguizamo) swoops down, morphs into a prehistoric parrot, and takes Ricky on an journey back through time to basically learn why dinosaurs are cool.
Alex begins to tell the tale of a young dinosaur named Patchi (Justin Long). The runt from a litter of baby Pachyrinosauri (see what they did there?), the film essentially describes the migration path of he and his fellow omnivores as they cross Cretaceous period Alaska to New Zealand and back again, all while trying to evade prehistoric predators who want nothing more than to feast on his family and friends.
When his parents meet their untimely demise, Patchi must grow into a leader and take control of the herd from his bigheaded brother, Scowler (Skyler Stone).
Based on the hit BBC series of the same name — which originally aired in 1999 and raked in over 700 million viewers globally — the dramatic adaptation tries hard to make things educational for the young ones, interspersing the narrative with cut scenes describing different dinosaurs and their etymology. But given the lack of information aside from the origin of their names, it's hard to find anything particularly enlightening about this film. Exacerbating matters is a barely-formed script by John Collee (Happy Feet, Master and Commander), which prioritizes poop jokes over anything academic, making it hard to appreciate any heartfelt moments or character developments that may occur along the way.
For a film that took four years to make, Dinosaurs 3D suffers from a surprising lack of visual clarity. Animated using the same 3D fusion camera system employed by James Cameron in Avatar, the dinosaurs are depicted with a similar soft focus sheen, yet look twice as outdated. Making things worse is a number of visual inaccuracies; due to the length of filming, scientific discoveries were made which altered our understanding of how these creatures looked. So while some dinosaurs may be shown as having scales, in reality, paleontologists now believe they were actually adorned with feathers — a pretty big mistake to make in a film that cost $80 million to produce.
Even with all its shortcomings, Walking with Dinosaurs 3D is set to make heap loads of money at the box office, if for nothing more than it being scheduled days before the Christmas holidays. For parents looking to engage their children during the winter break, the lesson here is simple: pick up the original six-part mini-series and a copy of The Land Before Time. Your children will have twice the amount of fun with none of the dinosaur poop jokes.