MRR Review: "Walking with Dinosaurs 3D"

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See and feel what it was like when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, in a story where an underdog dino triumphs to become a hero for the ages.
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MRR Review: "Walking with Dinosaurs 3D"

Rating: PG Length: 87 minutes
Release Date: December 20, 2013
Directed by: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale
Genre: Animation/Action/Family

"Walking with Dinosaurs 3D" takes viewers back millions of years to give them a glimpse of what the world might have been like when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Utilizing the same character designer who made realistic-looking dinosaurs for Disney's "Dinosaur" and the Discovery Channel's "Dinosaur Revolution," the film set out to give viewers the most realistic depiction yet of what the fearsome creatures were actually like.

That was the intention, anyway. The end result falls a little short of that goal, mainly because early plans for a silent feature that had only natural and animal sounds were scrapped by executives in favor of creating a feature with a bit of voice-acting star power. While the film that was released is enjoyable enough, it likely lost a lot of the impact it might have had if the original vision had been seen through to the end.

The film opens in the modern day, focusing on a teenage boy named Ricky (played by Charlie Rowe) who thinks that science is boring. Ricky is given the tooth of a dinosaur known as a gorgosaurus by his paleontologist uncle, Zack (played by Karl Urban), establishing a link to the main story; jumping back millions of years, we find out from a prehistoric bird named Alex (voiced by John Leguizamo) that the tooth was actually knocked out by a pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (voiced by Justin Long), who is the actual lead in the film.

The runt of the litter, Patchi has to deal with his alpha-male brother Scowler (voiced by Skyler Stone) who attempts to exert his dominance over his younger sibling. Patchi also meets and falls in love with a female pachyrhinosaurus named Juniper (voiced by Tiya Sircar) as he struggles to explore the vast world around him. With Alex serving as a guide, Patchi begins to see not only that there is life beyond the herd but also that not every decision his brother makes is the right one.

Though Patchi and the tribe face several ordeals, the biggest is the aforementioned gorgosaurus, which hopes to feast on the herd as it migrates. When Scowler fails to take the threat seriously, Patchi realizes that his brother isn't the only leader in the herd and that he needs to take action if the herd is going to survive.

By the time we see Ricky and Zack again, the audience has almost forgotten that the film has a human element at all. Though the characters serve to bookend the film and show that dinosaurs can be cool (though this was probably never in much doubt), their presence doesn't add much to the overall movie. A cut of the film without the modern-day bookends would likely still tell the story just as effectively and wouldn't be much shorter.

The biggest problem with the film is that the addition of voice actors for the dinosaurs seems to largely be a last-minute decision. While being able to hear the characters talk might help some younger viewers to understand what's going on, not enough effort seems to have been put into converting the film into a movie with dialogue. The script seems a little unpolished at times, and the dinosaurs weren't animated to match the speaking roles. Characters' mouths don't move as they did in "Dinosaur" or other films with talking animals, leaving the voiceovers seemingly coming from nowhere as the characters converse.

That said, the dinosaurs themselves are pretty impressive and provide the film with some nice eye candy. Younger viewers and dinosaur enthusiasts likely won't care that the dinosaurs are talking without moving their mouths, and the film provides plenty of spectacle for them to enjoy. The 3D for the film is fairly well done too, making it an immersive visual treat.

All in all, this film could be fun for a family outing if you've got kids or are just a huge fan of dinosaurs. The animation is well done aside from the speech, the 3D is better than in a lot of films, and the voice acting is mostly solid, though Leguizamo and Long do ham it up a bit. Those who enjoyed the six-part BBC series that spawned the film may also appreciate this fun family flick.

Rating: 3 out of 5