Ever since I was a wee lad, I’ve dreamed of the day someone would make the Perfect Dinosaur Movie.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, there are three essential elements to the Perfect Dinosaur movie: 1. No humans. 2. No talking monkey-creatures or sleestaks or other humanoid things. 3. No talking dinosaurs.
Doesn’t seem that unreasonable, does it? There were no humans or talking monkeys in the days of the dinosaurs. And pretty much every paleontologist will tell you that dinosaurs couldn’t talk. It’s just science.
And yet every dinosaur movie I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen pretty much all of them — violate these three simple rules. Oh, there have been some good dinosaur movies but think how much better they would’ve been without, say, Jeff Goldblum or Tea Leoni.
So a few months back I was walking through a movie theater and in the lobby was a large cardboard display promoting “Walking With Dinosaurs: The Movie.” Whoa. How have I not heard about this?
For the dinosaur-impaired, “Walking With Dinosaurs” was a six-part documentary series that aired on the Discovery Channel in 2000. It was a nature documentary with dinosaurs. No people, just voiceover narration describing what was going on and dispensing valuable information. Just what I wanted for so long. And now they were bringing it to the big screen. I was so excited.
I missed the advance screening due to bad weather so I caught the early matinée this morning. The movie opens with sweeping vistas of gorgeous scenery. So far, so good. Then we start to pick up radio transmissions. What? Then we cut to a long, lonely road and a jeep driving down it. What? Am I in the wrong theater?
In the jeep is a handsome young man who is driving, a cute young girl in the back, and an angsty teen riding shotgun. They’re headed out to a remote location to dig for dinosaur bones. The teen doesn’t want to be there, you see he loved dinosaurs as a boy but now he’s too old for such foolishness.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY DINOSAUR MOVIE? WHAT ARE THESE PEOPLE DOING HERE? WHY ARE THEY SUCH TIRED, BORING CLICHES? HOW LONG CAN THIS GO ON?
whoa, calm down. catch your breath. it’s just a framing device. that’s it. a few minutes with the humans and then we’ll be off to the Cretaceous and everything will be fine.
Angsty teen stays behind with the jeep with the others go explore. A bird flies up and starts talking to the teen. Oh god, the bird is talking. The bird, which has now transformed into a prehistoric bird, tells him to pick up a fossilized tooth and it begins to glow, and the story travels back in time so we can finally go walking with dinosaurs. Thankfully, the teen is left behind.
The bird, named Alex (John Leguizamo), is best friends with a young Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (Justin Long). Together they narrate the story and have conversations with Patchi’s tough-but-dumb big brother Scowler (Skyler Stone) and love interest Juniper (Tiya Sircar)
Why? Why are the dinosaurs narrating the story? Was Kenneth Branagh not available? Why not get Morgan Freeman, then? Or Whoopi Goldberg? And why are the dinosaurs talking? And why just these four dinosaurs? Why don’t the adults talk? Why don’t the carnivores? I’ve seen this movie before, when Disney made it and it was called “Dinosaur.” Replacing the annoying monkey people with an annoying bird is not fooling anyone.
And while I’m at it — Pachyrhinosaurus? I’m pretty knowledgable about dinosaurs, as you may have figured out, and I’ve never heard of the pachyrhinosaurus. I mean, I’m glad they pick a ceratopsian to be the protagonist, but why not pick one that people have heard of? Was the Triceratops herd too busy? And Gorgosaurus? You couldn’t meet the T-Rex’s asking price?
It’s like all the A-list dinosaurs didn’t want anything to do with this film. They must have got a hold of the script in advance. Who says dinosaurs were stupid?
I haven’t even got to the plot yet, and I don’t think I’ll bother. Suffice it to say that it’s filled with predictable storytelling and poor attempts at humor. Constant poor attempts at humor.
Oh, and this film gave me a fourth item to add to my list for the Perfect Dinosaur Movie: No pop music soundtrack. I realize Fleetwood Mac has been around for a long time in different lineups, but I’m pretty sure they were not around 64 million years ago.
On the plus side, it’s a very good-looking film. The dinosaurs look great, the scenery looks great. There are a few wonderfully majestic moments of dinosaurs hanging out at the waterhole or marching through the fields. There’s some decent dino-fighting action.
My advice: Take your iPod to drown out the music/dialogue and you may enjoy “Walking With Dinosaurs.”
Meanwhile, the wait for the Perfect Dinosaur Movie continues…
Oh, and one more thing: You know how in movies with talking animals or commercials with talking babies they have the animals/babies move their mouths to simulate speech? They don’t even bother to do that here, so when Patchi and Juniper are sweet-talking each other, they’re just staring at each other.
It looks like they’re using telepathy. Which, you know, is silly. If you can’t be bothered to make it look like the dinosaurs are talking, don’t have the dinosaurs talk.