A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie is a fictionalized account of a prehistoric herbivore's life with a few scary parts. Instead of a documentary with narration, the ultra-realistic computer-generated production is more Ice Age than Jurassic Park with a plucky underdog protagonist (a Pachyrhinosaurus). There is predator-prey violence that disfigures and kills dinosaurs (one major death is off screen) that could be intensified by the 3D. Expect a romantic subplot that may turn off younger viewers. Language includes scatological references to dinosaur poop and a few insults, but it also includes clear references to the names of every prehistoric animal featured in the movie.
What's the story?
In the live-action beginning of the movie, a teenage boy and his kid sister visit their paleontologist father (Karl Urban) in Alaska and find a dinosaur tooth in his SUV. When the boy refuses to accompany his uncle on a research dig, a bird (John Leguizamo) starts talking and announces that "every fossil has a story." He transforms into a prehistoric bird the Alexornis (named Alex and speaking with a Spanish accent, of course) and recounts the fossil's tale from the Late Cretaceous period -- about a Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (Justin Long). Patchi is the runt of his herd, and he's nearly killed by a predator that leaves a hole in his frill. Saved by his mother, Patchi grows into a young adult and meets a female, Juniper (Tiya Sircar), from a different herd. When climate changes spark a Great Migration, circumstances force Patchi to transition into a more responsible role -- for his herd, Juniper, and himself.
Is it any good?
Audiences expecting a big-budget dinosaur documentary with extra realistic visuals will be somewhat disappointed. This isn't a narrated documentary like most BBC Earth productions or the original Walking with Dinosaurs, which featured the voice of Kenneth Branagh. This is basically Ice Age meets The Lion King via The Land Before Time -- but with amazing, digitally created landscapes and creatures (instead of animation) to recreate the the fauna and flora of 75 million years ago. The scatological humor (lots of jokes about dinosaur poop), the animal "instalove," the underdog who saves the day -- it's all there, including a romantic subplot so strong the accompanying music was Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You A Little Bit More, Baby"!
Speaking of White, the eclectic soundtrack is really quite memorable, including Fleetwood Mac ("Tusk"), Matisyahu ("Live Like a Warrior"), and Lord Huron ("Ends of the Earth") playing during key scenes. It's all a bit unexpected and confusing, even for kids, who are probably hoping for the 3D dinosaur to stop mooning over the girl from the other herd. Still, viewers will revel in the immersive experience the 3D visuals offer and appreciate honing their skills at naming various dinosaurs. Plus, there's Karl Urban in two scenes. Budding paleontologists may want more, so check out the movie's site which offers even more details about the dinosaurs of that period.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the enduring fascination with dinosaurs. What kinds of research did the filmmakers have to do to make this film?
Would you prefer a more traditional documentary, or do you like this fictionalized talking-dinosaur account? Is there anything lost by the humanization of the animals? Gained?
- In theaters: December 20, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: March 25, 2014
- Cast: Angourie Rice, Charlie Rowe, Justin Long
- Directors: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Dinosaurs, Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: creature action and peril, and mild rude humor
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.