Walking With Dinosaurs 3D is a giant dud
Featuring the voices of Justin Long and John Leguizamo. Rated G.
If mastodons and meerkats can chatter away like sitcom buddies, it’s not a huge leap to put words in the mouths of pea-brained Jurassic critters. That’s the thinking, anyway, behind Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, a spinoff of the smart BBC series of the same name, minus one dimension: intelligence.
One can’t blame the Beeb believers and their American partners for wanting to reach a wider and younger audience, but jeez, why did they have to work so hard? The mercifully short film, which apparently started as a purely visual tale, has multiple storytelling strategies, including a live-action intro telling kids not to be bored by science, on-screen graphics with text read by children, relentlessly upbeat music, and at least two more layers of literally nonstop narration to go with the stellar CGI animation.
With this kind of detailed nature study, we usually get Morgan Freeman or some other soothing authority figure explaining what’s what—here, the migratory patterns of the plant-eating pachyrhinosaurus, elephantine creatures that roamed from Alaska down through what’s now the West Edmonton Mall. Instead, the main reptiles’ personalities are supplied by the likes of Justin Long. He gives voice to the initially infantile Patchi, son of the tough herd leader and puny sidekick of bullying brother Scowler (Skyler Stone). Both horny offspring are drawn to female Juniper (Tiya Sircar), which begets some ugly bumping, the usual gender-role stereotyping, and plenty of big (if bloodless) fights with other, carnivorous dinos that aren’t deemed worthy of California accents.
The largest share of the narration comes from John Leguizamo, frequently amusing as a chatty prehistoric bird that comments, Chicano-style, on everything. His running patter, by Happy Feet screenwriter John Collee, is aimed at adults, although lines like “Don’t get too attached; this will be an oil field in the future” may be too cynical for parents. Actually, insecure is the word for filmmakers who can’t trust children to enjoy their phenomenal handicraft for even 10 seconds without being told what’s happening and exactly how to feel about it.