“Walking with Dinosaurs” banks heavily on that pre-wired affection.
The new kiddie film, told with lavish computer animation, fuses a child-like love for these beasts with a tale of an underdog who learns to lead the way. Parents be warned – the joys embedded in the film will be few for those 10 and over. Sappy storytelling and groan-inducing gags pepper this prehistoric landscape.
The film also serves up a “Bambi”-style sense of loss, a sequence handled delicately but one that could still disturb some young viewers.
When tragedy strikes the brothers must battle the dangerous Jurassic plains alone, although Patchi does find comfort by flirting with a comely dinosaur named Juniper (Tiya Sircar).
All the while a garrulous birdie named Alex (John Leguizamo) narrates the action with wise-cracking efficiency. The comic actor proved he belonged in animation circles with the “Ice Age” franchise. Here, he’s given a bigger storytelling mountain to climb along with some truly corny jokes to tell.
It’s a wonder Alex doesn’t come crashing to earth under their weight.
It’s instructive from a parental point of view to compare “Dinosaurs” with Disney’s current animated smash “Frozen.” The former serves up several poop jokes, some vomit gags (gussied up as science) and dialogue littered with oh, so contemporary dialogue like “you got served.”
“Frozen,” by contrast, eschews all of the above. It wants to become a beloved film classic, and it’s mostly on the proper path. “Dinosaurs” is more disposable in nature, a colorful story meant for those fleeting pre-teen years. That doesn’t mean it’s a calorie-free adventure from a morality standpoint.
The story showcases the value of family, sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others and staying together under the worst conditions. The filmmakers also slip in a series of clinical dinosaur names and descriptions that will tickle budding paleontologists.
The film is framed by a current-day story featuring an uncle (Karl Urban) and his young charges who go off to find dinosaur bones. The narrative device isn’t necessary. Kids who dig dinosaurs will want to go straight to the action while the stunning animation reminds parents of their own past love for these extinct beasts.