When one goes to watch a movie about dinosaurs, one doesn't expect a Jurassic Park every single time but one does expect a decent story to go with the dinosaur characters.
Walking with Dinosaurs has a mixture of unconvincing cartoonish CGI and live action photography like in Disney's Dinosaur, but without the emotional depth, narrative wonder and the thrills of that movie. It's like a theme park ride for kids with good looking dinos but a really poorly presented ride.
Directed by Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale, Walking with Dinosaurs is based on a popular ten-year-old BBC TV show of the same name.
It has Karl Urban as Uncle Zack who takes kids (Charlie Rowe, Angourie Rice) to look at some dinosaur remains in Alaska. One of the fossil's remains magically turns into a prehistoric bird (voiced by John Leguizamo) which narrates the story as the viewer is plunged into the animated world of dinosaurs.
It's cheesy and clearly aimed at kids but it doesn't really know that its target audience is smarter than it thinks.
There's a Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi (voiced by Justin Long) who falls in love with Juniper (Tiya Sircar) as their herd migrate and deal with a ton of predators including Gorgo the Gorgosaurus who killed Patchi's dad. It's quite nursery level stuff, really, and none of it is exciting enough to warrant much attention.
The animation is fairly good but the attempt to be photorealistic jars with the suspension of disbelief and I'm not sure kids would prefer this kind of filmmaking over, say, a full on animated film from Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks.
The backgrounds in every scene are meticulously drawn and are quite detailed, and the sheer lack of life in the dinosaurs' eyes is a quite grating.
What is more incongruous is that the dinosaurs don't move their mouths while speaking, so we hear their voices as if they're talking by telepathy.
And only four of the dinos manage to talk, the rest simply communicate in grunts and roars, which makes me wonder if adding the voices was an afterthought by either the filmmakers or the studio.
A dialogue-less silent film with the same footage could probably have been a pretty good movie.