While most movie-goers spent their holiday break taking in geeky offerings such as The Hobbit 2, Saving Mr. Banks and Anchorman 2, this Outlaw traversed the theater aisle less traveled to take in a viewing of Walking with Dinosaurs 3D. Based on box office numbers, it looks like I may have been the only one on that path.
Despite what some of you might be thinking, my reasoning for going to the kiddie-documentary had nothing to do with needing to take any of my own little outlaws out in order to keep them busy. I don’t personally have any mini trouble makers of my own (at least none that any lawyer or DNA test has made me aware of… yet).
No, I ended up going because my mommy and daddy took me! They even paid for my Reese’s Pieces. I may be over three decades old, but I’m never one to turn down a free movie ticket and a bag of chocolate covered peanut butter. Believe it or not, my mom actually approached me about going to see the kid-flick disguised as a documentary. Granted, my love of all things involving huge terrible lizards was reason enough to take in the Dino-documentary. Still, if not for good ol’ mom, I may have waited until the blu-ray release, which at this rate looks like it will be sometime within the next 24-48 hours.
Maybe they could also cut an 80 minute trailer without the voice-overs?
Outside of our mutual love of ginourmous cold-blooded monsters, our interest in the film stemmed from the initial trailer released that was not only gorgeous, but well put together (as if any one brain cell in my thick skull has a blooming idea how to put together a film teaser.)
The advertised 3D was another selling point for us both, as was the fact the running time was only an hour and 20 minutes, which in turn means that the sweet little innocent 5-year-olds most likely destined to sit behind us, would only be kicking our seats for roughly half the length of a typical kiddo film.
For starters, the plot of Walking with Dinosaurs doesn’t take much summarizing, well, because there isn’t much of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing per say seeing as the purpose of this movie is to present a somewhat factual look back at how a group of plant-eating four-legged Pachyrhinosaurus migrated across the continent over the course of a year. This is established through paleontologist “Uncle Jack” (Karl Urban of Star Trek and Almost Human fame) along with his nephew and niece who are along for the ride to help him excavate fossils. (Note to Karl: Ix-nay on the cheery nice guy roles, forcing a smile just isn’t your thing.)
Wrapped in the somewhat factual presentation of the Pachyrhinosaurus adventure, was somewhat annoying voice-over work incorporated to give a more Disney like storyline for kids and adults – with plenty of patience – alike. If you combine the elements of Disney’s own Dinosaur animated feature with tot-friendly elements of The Land Before Time, you start to get the gist of what you are getting yourself into. That’s not to say I minded the addition of voices to provide a sense of story and added personality to some of the lizards, but the main problem derives from the fact there is TOO much talking. That, and the dialogue is so corny, it makes my dad’s stable of humor seem downright Seinfeld-eque.
The voice over actors themselves didn’t help matters much either. The main culprits were John Leguizamo (voice of Alex), Justin Long (voice of Patchi), and to a lesser extent, Skyler Stone (voice of Scowler). How bad was it exactly? Let’s just say that ripping out my ear drums and chewing on them like bubble-gum sounded like a more attractive alternative at the time.
Here’s the shortest sample of voice-over work I could bear to share with you.
(Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
The good news is, outside of the obnoxious voice-overs, the visual aspect of the film was quite stunning, and that’s putting it mildly. CGI dinosaurs have come a long way since Jurassic Park, and while Spielberg’s dinos still stand the test of time, what is presented in Walking with Dinosaurs is on a whole other level. Like the Jurassic movies, this quasi-documentary is brought to life by combing live-action scenery with computer generated creatures.
One of the locations used for filming was the Hobbit friendly destination of New Zealand. It’s no wonder so much is starting to be shot there as the vistas and landscape are absolutely gorgeous. Add in a pack of lifelike Gorgosaurus – not to be confused with the pungent cheese – and you get some truly breath-taking scenes. Add to the mix a 3D experience, and it almost feels like a Pachyrhinosaurus is dumping load of feces on your head. (You may think I’m joking but that event actually does transpire at one point.)
At the end of the day – or 80 minutes if you want to get technical about it – Walking with Dinosaurs 3D is a mixed bag. On one hand, the visual effects were top notch and the factual data sprinkled through the story proved interesting. On the flip-side, the infantile voice-overs were so annoying, I was seriously debating pulling out my phone to play the audio file of Roseanne Barr singing the National Anthem and putting it on infinite loop until my ears bled out completely. Disney has proven time and time again that kids movies can appeal to the little ones while also not insulting the intelligence of the adults that get dragged to the theaters with them. That said, there was no excuse for the mess that my ears were witness to.
It is truly unfortunate the dialogue was so intrusive and childish, because it tainted what was an otherwise beautiful and semi-informative movie. I can’t remember the last time I went to the theater and learned something of value other than the valuable nugget that bringing your own candy into a movie will actually save you more money than throwing it away in your 401K.
Sadly, my mother and I are were duped by the bait-and-switch tactics of the majestic trailer we viewed (see above) before making our way down to the theater. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t regret going to the theater to see the film in all of its 3D glory, if anything I just regret not going down there with ear plugs at the ready.
Even though one could always watch it at home with the volume down, maybe the home video production team will provide a dialogue-less version of the film on a separate disc for those that choose to keep their sanity while experiencing the rest of the feature. Based on the movie’s current theatrical draw, we may know what’s on that DVD as soon as it’s released… in just a few short hours.