'Walking With Dinosaurs' Review: Smithsonian-Grade Visuals Voiced by the Mac Guy
Good news: If you (as a parent) are interested in taking your kid to see some very lifelike dinosaurs as they traipse through their beautifully rendered natural habitat, then you’re in luck. Walking With Dinosaurs is that movie. Just remember to take earplugs for everyone in the family. This movie is a sight to behold, and the little ones’ mouths will gape open in wonder. It’s a bloody shame that the kiddos must be subjected to what ruins the movie — distracting voicework from actors who don’t mind muddying their reps with poop jokes. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad one that the dinos mouths don’t visibly move with the voiceovers. The filmmakers avoided the creepy Marmaduke effect, but that’s about as far as the voicework can be praised. The film promises “dinosaurs more real than you’ve ever seen,” which is the case. The movie succeeds at least on that point.
The film itself is based upon the BBC’s nature series of the same name that aimed for realism (as much as humanly possible, anyway). That series was wise enough to simply follow the dinos’ actions while some British dude performed only the most necessary of narration duties. For stateside viewers, 20th Century Fox had to dumb things up to an impressive degree. As with most animated films involving anthropomorphized animals, the movie revolves around a little kiddie dinosaur for whom your kids can root! Such adventures were certainly conceived with good intentions but destroy any hope for a realistic portrayal of creatures that kids (and Ross Gellar) already find fascinating without a bunch of dumb jokes.
Never mind that the main character’s voice comes from the freaking Mac guy, Justin Long, who plays Pachi (a Pachyrhinosaurus). We travel with Pachi through his childhood and dinosaur puberty as he fends off various predatory characters. The poor dino almost gets eaten immediately after birth, and he ends up flying solo without his herd in the area now known as “Alaska.” Pachi’s existence doesn’t grow any less dangerous as his life wears forth. He’s a vegetarian dino, which is sweet and all, but some T-Rex action would have been nice. I’m just saying, if the filmmakers really want to give their audience projected dinosaur thoughts, it would be nice to have a bad guy’s input too. John Leguizamo lends his scenery-chewing vocals to a prehistoric, parrot-looking creature (an Alexornis) who narrates the affair in a very Leguizamo voice. That is to say, the bird speaks in an exaggerated Hispanic accent, which makes very little sense at all considering — well, everything — including time, geography, and all that would matter to a movie holding itself out as “realistic.”
The experience of this film is well and good if you only want to take a 4-year-old out to a nice looking movie. If the studio had really thought about marketing this movie to a larger crowd, they would have left out the vocals entirely and kept the educational value of the movie intact. Instead, we get a tale about an underdog dinosaur who — when he’s not running for his life — only really wants to find a girlfriend. He mostly ends up getting pooped on instead. Just like the audience. Sadly, your very young kids will probably enjoy Walking With Dinosaurs, and you’ll be disappointed with them as a result.
Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.