WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
** (out of 5)
December 20, 2013
Charlie Rowe as RICKY
Karl Urban as UNCLE ZACK
Angourie Rice as JADE
John Leguizamo as ALEX
Justin Long as PATCHI
Skyler Stone as SCOWLER
Tiya Sircar as JUNIPER
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“Walking with Dinosaurs” is one of those movies that was pretty much ruined in post production by studio meddling. Had it not tried to reach the lowest common denominator, and by doing so alienate much of its potential audience, it would have been a beautiful speculative nature film.
However, as it stands, marketing research dictated that the movie needed to reach younger audiences. As a result, a small but devastating change was made.
The film is primarily about a herd of dinosaurs in Alaska, focusing on the runt of the litter growing up in the dangerous prehistoric environment. As the herd migrates, they face many challenges, including power battles for leadership and fierce predators. The story is book-ended by a paleontologist (Karl Urban) who is taking his niece and nephew to a dig to find the rest of a fossilized dinosaur skeleton.
As I understand it, the film was initially made to play as a type of nature film, if cameras had been around 70 million years ago. It is a co-production of BBC Earth, which is responsible for some of the best nature footage you’ll see in the modern age. BBC Earth is also the source that some of the DisneyNature releases have mined to make some striking theatrical documentaries.
However, in the later stages of development, character voices were added to the animals. Justin Long provides the voice of Patchi, the run. John Leguizamo serves as narrator, a prehistoric bird named Alex. And this is where the movie has its greatest – and often insurmountable – problem.
It’s not that BBC Earth films have shied away from voice overs. In fact, some of the best ones out there have a narration that ties everything together. Even when the narration isn’t done by Morgan Freeman or David Attenborough, it can be pleasant.
But “Walking with Dinosaurs” goes way beyond that. This process tried to shoehorn a fascinating film into a retread of Disney’s similar film “Dinosaur” from a dozen years ago. The movie ends up ramming the characters, voices and jokes down your throat, never letting up. The action-filled moments of the dinosaurs racing to survive, or the calming majestic beauty shots of the landscapes, are marred with Leguizamo being only slightly less irritating than his character of Sid from the “Ice Age” movies.
In effect, these overscripted jokes and chatter ruin practically every moment of the film. Think of how awful “March of the Penguins” would be if the producers kicked Morgan Freeman to the curb and hired Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sans to make fart and poop jokes about the penguins in Antarctica. More over, imagine if not five seconds of screen time can pass without one of the guys talking.
This movie looks gorgeous and was a strong attempt at recreating a BBC Earth video for a time long past, but watching it was like trying to enjoy a nature video in a room of talkers who think they’re much more funny than they really are.
Packaged for the short-attention-span crowd who can’t sit still through an 80-minute movie, “Walking with Dinosaurs” lays a tyrannosaurs-sized egg.
My only hope is that the Blu-ray comes with the option to watch the film without these awful voice overs. That would be something I’d pay twice to see.