Walking with Dinosaurs seems like two entirely different projects that have been yanked together in the crudest way imaginable. On the one hand, there are the visuals, which are tremendous. As in the BBC series that inspired it, the CG animation recreates the dinosaurs in life-like fashion. The film gives us a sense of their scale, their movements, the shape of their teeth and even the way they shrieked and growled. The very considerable downside is that the film-makers have decided to graft a cutesy, anthropomorphic children's story on to the footage. It is an entirely contradictory endeavour.
We are shown scenes of death and brutality even as we hear a squeaky parrot chirping the voice-over and are subjected to dialogue along the lines of, "Did you just take a poop shower?". The film-makers are clearly aiming for a family audience. However, this isn't a Lion King-like piece of Disney animation. Its visual style is altogether more realistic and frightening. The faces of the dinosaurs aren't expressive. This leads to a horrible mismatch between sound and image. Try as they might, the film-makers can't convince us that pachyrhinosaur Patchi (voiced by Justin Long) is a lovable underdog with a sense of mischief as well as of heroism. His budding romance with Jade (Angourie Rice) is portrayed bizarrely as if it is a teen love affair even as the herd is preyed on by carnivorous gorgosaurs.
The framing device – we start in the present day as a bored kid accompanies his family on a trip looking for dinosaur skeletons – is clumsy, too, and the T-Rex hardly puts in an appearance at all. Given the breathtaking and often terrifying 3D imagery of the dinosaurs in their habitat, it's hugely disappointing that the film-makers have dumped so much saccharin on to their own movie.
Director Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale, 87 mins. Featuring the voices of: Justin Long, Karl Urban, John Leguizamo, Angourie RiceReuse content