A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dinosaur Island, an Australian live-action import that went direct to DVD in the U.S., is an adventure story that finds two kids magically transported to a timeless island where they encounter dinosaurs and other mysterious creatures. Kate, a child from 1940, arrived on the island many years earlier, while Lucas is a boy from the present day. As Kate tries to help Lucas find his way back to his missing airplane, the duo must avoid or escape from assorted imaginary and real animals and insects, as well as a tribe of native boys. It's standard action that young audiences who understand make-believe should have no trouble with: chases, captures, narrow escapes from ferocious CGI dinos with sharp teeth and angry eyes, slobbering giant centipedes, murderous man-eating plants, and other mildly scary beings. A spooky, threatening dense mist cover provides atmospheric suspense with rumbling, shaking, lightning, and darkness in several scenes. No one is hurt or killed; it's mostly danger via sound and visual effects, not physical contact.
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What's the story?
In DINOSAUR ISLAND, young Lucas (Darius Williams), on his way from his home in Australia to catch a plane to America, visits the long-abandoned house of his deceased grandmother. Fascinated by the many strange and wonderful artifacts from the past, Lucas picks up and pockets a curious crystal. Later, traveling on the plane on his own, Lucas studies the object. Eerily, the crystal starts to glow. Then a bizarre mist comes up, surrounds the aircraft, and carries it through dense clouds, lightning, and roaring upheaval before all goes black and silent. When Lucas awakens, all alone on an isolated beach, he has no idea of where he is or how he got there. He only knows he has to find the plane and its passengers. Instead, he meets Kate (Kate Masmussen), a young girl who landed on the island decades earlier and has never aged. Kate share her magical island home with Lucas, showing him a land out of time and place, filled with a vast population of creatures from the past and perhaps even the future. Lucas is intrigued but desperately wants to go home. As the two kids search for Lucas' plane, they find themselves on a perilous adventure, forced to use their wits and their courage to survive.
Is it any good?
Kids may enjoy this adventure of two scrappy kids taking on a magical prehistoric land of predators and oddities. But even fantasies are best when they're logical or based on some sense of truth from within the designated fantastical notion. In this case, everything has simply either been dropped onto or happens on Dinosaur Island (lost kids; dinosaurs; man-eating plants; time travel; airplane relics from the past, present, and future; a glowing crystal with mystical powers; a tribe of African boys). The kids discover, battle, or befriend all those they encounter with no explanation other than "it's magic" and with no connectedness between creatures or events. Then, when one considers the low-budget nature of the production, the primitive CGI, and some stilted, amateurish performances, it's clearly, at best, a film for action or dinosaur fans with moderate expectations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the advances in filmmaking technology to recreate prehistoric creatures. What is CGI? What is "stop-action"? Is a movie scarier if the dinosaurs look real?
Movies often place kids alone in a fight for survival. Why do you think young audiences like stories like that? Do you ever daydream that you're on your own or protecting someone you care about? What does it feel like when you imagine that you're strong and can handle whatever comes your way?
In Dinosaur Island, the filmmakers made the creatures bright and colorful, not like the usual depictions of scientifically correct dinosaurs. Use your imagination to create (draw or write) an island of mythical or actual living beings from another time and place.
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