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Article by Teddy Durgin

The Problem Is the TALKING With Dinosaurs

Ah, "Walking With Dinosaurs." What a strange experience! In a time when so many films seem SO calculated, so put together by focus groups, so carefully calibrated to play to the widest swath of the masses possible, you don't get that many true cinematic oddities anymore. But here is a film that is a cross between "Jurassic Park" and... "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer!" But, at the same time, it also wants to be a sort of quasi-science documentary for elementary school kids. AND it is completely obsessed with poop and puke jokes! If this film were made in committee, who was on this committee? Spielberg, Santa and Booger from "Revenge of the Nerds?!" Here is a movie that goes to great lengths animating some of the most amazingly detailed dinosaurs ever captured on film. Some of the visuals here are truly amazing. Furthermore, the filmmakers didn't go the easy route and give us a story of T-Rexes, brontosauruses, and raptors. Every few minutes, the movie freeze-frames and introduces a different, exotic dinosaur, giving viewers the stats on such creatures as Gorgosauruses, Pachyrhinosauruses and Troodons. Then, unfortunately, it gives them human personalities and plunks them down into the inane tale of Patchi (voice of Justin Long), an awkward, outcast reindeer... er, Pachyrhinosaurus, who is ostracized by the other members of his herd for his red nose... er, the hole in his ear, who eventually befriends a loner dentist elf... er, sarcastic, loner bird named Alex (voice of John Leguizamo) and falls in love with a kind-hearted, understanding doe... er, female dinsoaur (voice of Tya Sircar) who teaches him that there's always a tomorrow. To be fair, it's not a direct lift from "Rudolph" (er, did I mention that the biggest and baddest Bumble... er, Gorgosaurus is defeated only when his teeth are knocked out?) Patchi has some serious sibling rivalry with his brother Scowler (voice of Skyler Stone). Their rivalry intensifies after a pack of Gorgosauruses slaughter their mom, dad and siblings. Yeah, weirdly, the film mixes in real-life survival sequences with broadly played sequences in which Patchi gets defecated on by a larger dinosaur, in which he and his siblings eat regurgitated leaves that their mom puked up, and so forth. The biggest and strangest distraction, though, is how the dinosaurs "talk" to each other. The animators don't animate the mouths. So, the various dinos communicate via a sort of mental telepathy, I guess. And, I tell ya, it takes a good 20 or so minutes to get used to this on screen. It's just weird! Then, it gets even weirder when you realize that the fully grown dinosaurs never really speak in the film. They grunt and roar, while the younger dinosaurs carry on like they're angst-ridden teenagers at the local shopping mall. So, you not only get lines like "You're about to get served!" and "I feel ya" and "Ooooh, you're crushing hard," you get Patchi trying to work his way through asking the girl out and fumbling for the right things to say. The whole time, we continue to get genuine scientific factoids flashed on screen about the era we're watching. So, the filmmakers are trying to "keep it real" while not really having much faith that their younger audience members will sit through a straight-up, realistic effort. Of course, if this were played out realistically, Patchi's inner monologue would probably go something like: "Hmmmm, that's a good-looking female dinosaur over there. I think I'll take her from behind by force." Oh, and have I mentioned that Alex the bird narrates this tale and appears in both the live-action opening and closing of the film set in the modern day making him... 70 MILLION YEARS OLD!!! So, what's the best target audience for this? I dunno. Deaf paleontologists who can't read subtitles, maybe? Aargh! If it feels like you've been waiting 70 million years for a great animated dinosaur movie, I'm sorry but you're gonna have to wait a little while longer.

"Walking With Dinosaurs" is rated PG for creature action and peril, and rude humor.


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