“If you want to know where the food is, follow the fat guys.”
I almost coughed out a Strepsil through my nose. That kind of quick wit kept the pace skipping merrily along in the 3D film Walking With Dinosaurs. This despite the setting (the lumbering slowness of a mass migration in the Late Cretaceous period) and a cloying story.
Most of the humor and wisdom came from the mouth of an Alexornis antecedens—a prehistoric bird to non-dino geeks—voiced with aplomb by John Leguizamo, whose most unforgettable role was playing a (very pretty) woman in the hilariously titled and acted To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.
Not being a fan of 3D and cloying flicks, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Walking With Dinosaurs. This US$80,000,000 film is definitely something you shouldn't miss. For one thing, it isn't overly long (just 87 minutes) that you'll end up with a headache, or thinking about your laundry.
The story begins with a modern-day bird turning into the prehistoric Alexornis antecedens, or “Alex.” Leguizamo's voice steals the film away from its central character, a Pachyrhinosaurus named “Patchi,” voiced by Justin Long.
The runt of the litter, the infant Patchi has a run-in with a nasty Troodon, an omnivore, which bites Patchi on the bony frill atop his skull. This leaves Patchi with something no one needs—a hole in the head. Ha!
The film is obviously directed at the school-kid dino enthusiast because the first part of the film was peppered with slides showing the type of dinosaur entering the screen.
Whenever the main characters encounter another dinosaur, the film stops and you end up holding your breath to see whether the slide will show the new creature to be a herbivore, carnivore, or (GASP!) an omnivore that will eat anything in its path. The movie speeds up when the slides stop interrupting the action.
The highlights of the film are Leguizamo's endearing Latino accent (“zee joungsters” = the youngsters), Leguizamo's quips (On the predator's menu: Patchi Gazpacho), and the sundry things that fly at the audience: ice, water, butterflies, and snapping predatory jaws. I found myself swatting prehistoric creatures away from my face and I heard some squeals behind me from surprised kids and adults.
Even the warning to turn off your cellphone was done in amusing 3D fashion. A T-Rex bit its way out of the screen and unleashed its breath two inches from my nose (I sat on the second row), frightening the entire audience into never using a phone inside the theater again.
The love interest and warring-brothers angles give the film color, as does the expert handling of the cinematographer's palette. The Late Cretaceous period is known for its sunless days and bleak landscape, but one would hardly recognize it after the 3D animators are done sprinkling their fairy dust.
Although packed with surprising 3D gimmicks, the feeding and fight scenes are not so grisly as to traumatize small kids. I actually heard some children squeal in delight at scenes that I would have thought would have them running for the exit. There lies the genius of Walking With Dinosaurs. What should have been gruesome scenes were handled with an eye toward its young audience.
For instance, the camera zooms away from a feeding frenzy for a bird's eye view. Or Leguizamo chatters and prances about to make the prehistoric carnage seem much less ghastly.
My only dinosaur bone to pick (sorry, this film is contagious) was that it treats these creatures as if they were already proven to have existed. Personally, I think the argument between evolution and entropy is far from being settled. Regardless, one can still sit back and enjoy this fun movie.