The gigantic voice talents of Justin Long (Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise) and John Leguizamo (Ice Age franchise) take you on a thrilling prehistoric journey the whole family will enjoy! In a time when dinosaurs rule the Earth, the smallest of the pack — a playful Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi — embarks on the biggest adventure of his life. As he tries to find his place in a spectacular world filled with fun-loving friends and a few dangerous foes, Patchi will discover the courage he needs to become the leader of the herd...and a hero for the ages.
The concept for 'Walking with Dinosaurs' is great: beautifully shot footage of untouched landscapes and locations are touched up with CG to make it look a little more prehistoric, including the addition of almost perfectly animated dinosaurs. Consequentially, it shows exactly what Earth may have looked like when dinosaurs roamed here millions of years ago. A six-part documentary series with this concept aired in 1999 with scientific narration by Kenneth Branagh. While the visual effects in the BBC series weren't so great (they look dated), they are absolutely awesome in the feature film; however, everything that made the series worth watching is bastardized in the feature.
Independently produced by BBC Earth, the folks responsible for giving us the astonishing 'Planet Earth' series and the many similar series that followed it, when Fox picked up distribution for 'Walking with Dinosaurs,' they got too involved and destroyed the series' good name. Knowing that a CG-enhanced historical nature documentary wouldn't have huge appeal to mainstream audiences, they decided to turn it into a blasted kids movie. Originally planned to have narration, just like the series, Fox nixed the idea during post-production and gave the leading dinosaurs voiced-over childish dialog and a cheesy plot. The somewhat educational aspect of the series have been replaced with effort-less absurdity.
The movie opens with a live-action human story. Two kids, one of which is a moody teenager, are staying with their paleontologist uncle (Karl Urban) in Alaska while their parents are out of the country. To keep them entertained, Uncle Urban takes them to one of the dinosaur bone dig sites. Once there, the boy rudely blows off the uncle's attempt at making the kids have fun – that is, until a magical talking prehistoric bird named Alex (John Leguizamo) piques his interest with a Late Cretaceous dino tale.
Once upon a time, Patchi (Justin Long), the runt of a Pachyrhinosaurus herd was picked on by his brother, family, and peers. The lives of him and his bully brother, Scowler, were forever changed when Patchi began his first migration south with his family. After a tragic battle with a carnivorous dinosaur that now has a different species name than it had when I was a kid, Patchi and Scowler are left to make the migratory run on their own. Along the way, of course, they have to grow up on-the-fly – which includes Patchi's first experience with a female and his awkward crush on her.
The absolute worst aspect of this movie is the voice-over dino dialog. Not only are Long and Leguizamo bland and life-less, but the script is downright awful. Watching the movie with no sound would be much more effective than having to suffer through this IQ-dropping voice-over. Sounding like it was written by a 10-year-old, the voice-over literally ruins the movie. It's also annoying that whenever the dinosaurs speak to one another through the voiced-over dialog, their dino mouths don't move. It's like watching 'Look Who's Talking.' On top of that, many times the dialog plays congruently with the actual dinosaur growls and huffs. Maybe I'm putting too much thought into it, but I strive to welcome quality kids movies into my home, ones that I'll gladly watch with the kids anytime they want. 'Walking with Dinosaurs' is of such low quality that it definitely doesn't meet the Luke Hickman Family Movie Standard.
It's worth noting that the 3D Blu-ray release of 'Walking with Dinosaurs' exclusively contains the "Cretaceous Cut" of the movie that removes the live-action human stories and all of the silly voice-over dino banter. The only sounds coming from the dinos are the growls and grumbles. Fox didn't send out a 3D disc for review, but I'm certain that cut has to be superior to the theatrical cut that's featured on the 2D disc.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox has given 'Walking with Dinosaurs' a 2D Blu-ray combo release that includes a Region A BD-50 and a DVD, as well as a code redeemable for Ultraviolet and iTunes digital copy (redemption of the iTunes copy requires popping the DVD disc into a computer's disc drive). All is placed in a two-disc blue Elite keepcase. A simple and glossy cardboard slipcover is included. A Fox vanity reel plays before the main menu, as well as skippable trailers for 'Rio 2,' 'Mr. Peabody & Sherman' and 'Free Birds.'
'Walking with Dinosaurs' arrives on Blu-ray with a pristine 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode and a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. From the BBC Nature folks who have given us several fantastic nature series, the natural settings and landscapes are, of course, the best aspect of the movie. While the movie itself tries to place your focus on the computer animated dinosaurs, everything that's not CG looks the best. The crisp and clear presentation allows you to see so much more in the physical environments than you'd expect. The detail is immaculate.
But don't think that my praise of the settings are meant to contrast all of the CG elements, because that's not the case. Most of the computer animated characters and environments are also great – but not as eye-catching as the landscapes. For the most part, this is best that big screen dinosaurs have ever looked. In just one shot, a glimpse of dino skin will reveal thousands of individually visible scale-like pores or bumps. Whenever the CG takes a turn for the sub-par, dampening effects like dust (stirred up from the trampling dino feet) or fog will hide the presumably not-so-great CG hidden beneath it.
The movie covers a wide range of strong natural colors. With our main dinosaurs being plant-eaters, green plant life is vibrant and intensified from reality, which visually lends itself to the plot when their food sources disappear with the changing of seasons. When used, black levels are strong. Inconsistent contrast is never an issue. Noise, aliasing, and bands are absent.
'Walking with Dinosaurs' hits Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that's much less impressive than it should be. Featuring hundreds of rumbly and roaring dinos, you'd expect this track to be filled with loud, expansive audio, but alas, it's dry and lifeless. Oddly enough, the movie's human-filled intro kicks the movie off with some great examples of seamless imaging and dynamic effects, but once we go back through the ages, the overall quality is lessened.
Despite what you'd expect the mix to do, the audio suddenly becomes front- and side-heavy as the dinos debut; very little activity stirs from the rear speakers. Forested woodland environments feature buzzing bees, bugs and distant stomp-induced rumbles, very few of which emanate from the rear channels. Not even the cheesy montages set to never-heard-of pop music make use of the rear speakers. It's only when there's some major on-screen dino activity that the mix comes to life. Stampeding behemoths bring out floor-shaking LFE. As sweeping wildfire closes in around our leads, crackling fire and wind rage around the room. The dino-on-dino fights bring out nice bit of loud dynamic sound and bass. Unfortunately, it takes something grand for the dynamics to come out, and too much of this tale isn't grand enough. Part of me has to believe that the lazy audio is due to the post-production addition of actors voicing over a standard nature audio mix. Perhaps the levels were once great, but now lowered as to not overpower the bad flat dino-logue.
In a failed attempt at being educational, get ready for a major cluster of throw-away features – and by "features" I mean "lazy repetitious interactive menus."
It's not often that I utterly loathe movies, but 'Walking with Dinosaurs' earns that response. What a miserable experience. Being 87 minutes long – that's including the long closing credits – it should breeze by like most short kids movies; instead, it feels like a lifetime. This is no exaggeration: at one point while watching, I felt we had to be halfway through the movie, so I checked the timer to see how much was left. I was extremely disappointed to see that only 20 minutes had gone by. I haven't watched the dialog-less version of the movie that's exclusive to the 3D Blu-ray, but it has to be better than the juvenile voiced-over theatrical version that appears on this 2D Blu-ray. The video quality is superb, featuring a great blend of real-world nature landscapes and top-notch dino CG, but the lossless audio track underperforms. The special features include a handful of worthless, repetitious throw-aways. I wouldn't wish this Blu-ray on anyone, but it might make for a nice torturous prank/white elephant gift.