If you have the overwhelming urge to watch a film that hates children as much as it hates them learning, then please spend your hard-earned money on an over-priced ticket for WALKING WITH DINOSAURS 3D, a mixed live-action/CG nightmare of low-brow filmmaking from directors Barry Cook (MULAN, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS) and Neil Nightingale, a producer on many nature docs and television specials. This is one of those films whose makers think that making a film for kids means you have to overload it with scatological humor, dumb jokes, goofy voices, talking animals, and one-dimensional characters in a 3D environment.
The film opens with paleontologist Uncle Zack (Karl Urban) hanging out with his niece and nephew Jade and Ricky (Angourie Rice and Charlie Rowe) and taking them to one of his most recent digs where he found a cool dinosaur tooth. Jade seems interested in joining him on his search for more cool fossils, while Ricky just wants to pull his hood up over his mop of hair (the sure sign of a rebellious teen) and tune out the world with earbuds and videogames.
But that's when a digitally created bird named Alex (John Leguizamo) swoops in and tells him the story of Patchi (voiced by Justin Long), the runt of his herd of herbivores, who has something of a bully older brother. I don't even think it's spoiling anything to say that naturally Patchi is destined to be the hero of this piece, but the road to get there is littered with amateur-hour humor or educational lessons about dinosaurs that literally stop the film to make their point.
If my eyes aren't deceiving me, the backdrops for WALKING WITH DINOSAURS are real, with the fairly realistic-looking creatures placed upon them. Whenever a new dinosaur is introduced, the film stops, the dinosaurs common and scientific name are displayed, and we're talk if they are meat or plant eaters, basically as a way to let us know if the animals are dangerous or not. It's also bizarre to watch the animals who communicate with each other—it seems whether or not an animals can talk is based solely on whether the script needs them to. Plus, their mouthes don't even move when they talk, which sometimes makes it touch to figure out who's talking if two or three characters are on the screen at once.
Because the movie isn't crammed with enough cliches, Patchi is given a potential love interest in the form of Juniper (Tiya Sircar), who seems to like Patchi until his brother Scowler (Skyler Stone) is made leader of the herd, then she doesn't have a choice but to be with him. What the hell are we teaching our kids with that little lesson? And poor Luguizamo is forced to resort to entry-level Spanglish jokes (because he's a fairly exotic bird) that Paul Rodriguez would have turned down because it was demeaning.
Attempting to view this film through the eyes of a pre-teen, I can image that seeing all of these massive dinosaurs on screen in lackluster 3D might border on fun, but I saw so many kids glaze over at the terrible banter between Long and Leguizamo, which goes on and on sometimes to the point where you wonder if the editor had actually signed off on this mess. Even the film's idea of what bullying is makes no sense. No bullies are as dumb as the ones in WALKING WITH DINOSAURS. Odds are, kids don't want to spend their holidays getting further education, so more than likely they won't be begging you to see this one. But if it comes up between now and the end of the year, just throw them a toy with lights and buzzers; I'm sure they'll forget all about, and so should you.