A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Back to the Jurassic is a computer-animated adventure that finds three modern-day kids on a time-travel adventure to a 65-million-year-old prehistoric era. More comic than scary, it's still filled with cartoon jeopardy and suspense, appropriate only for kids who are fully comfortable with real-vs.-pretend violence. The kids meet and come up against freakish dino-villains and narrowly escape from a raging river, a collapsing cave, steep falls, and explosions that carry them through time. A beloved character briefly appears to have been killed in a critical battle. Burps, farts, and fart smells follow a clownish bad guy, who is repeatedly insulted by his peers. Relatable messages about responsibility, following rules, and each person's effect on the wellbeing of others run throughout. Originally showing in theaters in 2012 as Dino Time, this movie was renamed and released in 2015 to capitalize upon the publicity and fanfare surrounding Jurassic World.
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What's the story?
In BACK TO THE JURASSIC, Ernie (another wonderful "little boy" performance by Pamela Adlon) is a challenge for his mom, the PTA Mother of the Year Sue (Jane Lynch), in the town of Terra Dino. Ernie's motto is "Breaking rules is the most important part of being a kid," and he delights in making that motto a reality. Ernie loves Terra Dino, which is famous for a spectacular dinosaur amusement park and for having the most fossil-filled tar pits anywhere. So after he's grounded for mischief-making in the town's dinosaur museum, Ernie sneaks out to BFF Max Santiago's house, followed by his annoying little sister, Julia, whose greatest joy is tattling on her brother and getting him in big trouble. Max's dad is an eccentric inventor and has created an egg-shaped time machine. Only problem is while everything seems to be in working order, the pesky time machine won't go anywhere! Leave it to Ernie and company. Soda spills on the contraption, and suddenly both boys and Julia find themselves exploding back in time to the land of prehistoric everything. A mix-up with the time machine egg "hatching" and the real egg of a powerful female T. rex, Tyra (Melanie Griffith), turns Ernie, Max, and Julia into Tyra's "kids." While back in the inventor's garage, Ernie's mom and Max's dad race to create a second time machine and rescue their errant kids. Ernie, Max, and Julia have the adventure of their lives as they battle two evil dinosaurs intent upon taking control of their T. rex mom's domain.
Is it any good?
Kids will enjoy some very funny characters, situations, and an easy-to-follow story that is clever, well-plotted, and happily resolved. The family dynamics are relatable and positive, and everyone learns valuable lessons about expectations and behavior without preachy-ness. Performances, particularly of the kids, the over-the-top comic villains, and Rob Schneider as an incorrigible half-brother to the trio of tourists, are solid. Though the action, jeopardy, and violence all are intended as comedy, very young or sensitive kids who aren't sure about fierce, roaring dinosaurs or real-vs.-cartoon peril may find it too scary.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why time-travel movies are so popular with kids and adults. What about the concept inspires our imaginations and our sense of adventure? Which time period would you like to enter (in the past or the future)? Why?
What do you think made Tyra, a Tyrannosaurus rex, such a heroic character instead of a ferocious one as most T. rexes are portrayed?
How can this movie, aimed at kids, increase a viewer's knowledge of dinosaurs? Look up the lesser-known prehistoric "sarcosuchus" (the species that the "Sarco" brothers belonged to). Which living animal is the sarcosuchus most like? What was the Cretaceous Period? What ended that geologic age?
- On DVD or streaming: June 9, 2015
- Cast: Jane Lynch, Pamela Adlon, Rob Schneider
- Director: Yoon-Suk Choi
- Studio: CJ Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some scary action and mild rude humor
- Last updated: February 13, 2020
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