If you were as big as a small bus, you might think you could thump around without being afraid of getting picked on. But the average plant-eating Pachyrhinosaurus still had to stay on his toes way back in the Cretaceous period. Because, well, back then there were meat-eaters roving about that were even bigger. And in the case of a scary Gorgosaurus, they came with a whole bunch of really big razor-sharp teeth, too.
Young Patchi knows that for a fact. He watched his father—the largest, toughest Pachyrhinosaurus of them all—square off with a Gorgosaurus. And that was the day Patchi and his brother, Scowler, became orphans. Fortunately they were lucky enough to find and join another herd. That at least gave them the time and protection they needed to grow up and gain some size.
Scowler ends up getting so big, in fact, that he's able to fight for the role of leader. And he gets it, too, headbutting his way to the top of the class. As far as Patchi's concerned, though, Scowler could have it. Patchi's the runt of the family, and it's serving him well to be just another face in the crowd—migrating when Scowler says migrate and stopping when he says stop.
Of course, being a good leader isn't just about being the biggest and strongest. Sometimes in the heat of real trouble a true leader needs a plan, bravery and some brains. A good heart helps, too. And those are things Scowler isn't very well equipped with. But they're exactly the things Patchi can call upon when the situation goes South.
Especially since … there's this pretty Pachyrhinosaurus named Juniper who needs his help.
There are a number of instances when dinosaurs put their lives on the line—and in a couple of cases die—for loved ones. Patchi's mom dies fighting for her little ones, and his father crashes through a flaming fallen tree to aid and defend his boys from a vicious foe.
A down-and-out Patchi is later encouraged by a bird friend named Alex to follow his father's example and make choices that will make a difference. And that if he's going to die, then it's best to sacrifice for something worthwhile. Patchi ultimately follows that advice and charges in to what appears to be certain death while trying to help his brother.
Patchi's natural (if less bludgeoning) leadership comes to the fore a few times, and though he has to break herd rules, he convinces his fellows to move to a place of safety rather than trudge obediently and blindly on to their doom. When Juniper is wounded and falls behind, Patchi stays with her and helps guide her slowly to safety.
Beyond placing the dinosaurs in the Cretaceous period and dabbling in a little dino theory (what the beasts looked like and what they did on a day-to-day basis), little to nothing is said about evolution or the origins (or demise) of the creatures.
A recording of Barry White singing "I'm Gonna Love You a Little Bit More, Baby" plays during a 'love-at-first-sight' scene shared by Patchi and Juniper.
For all of the movie's goofy dialogue, this land o' dinos is a dangerous place. And there are several scenes that could feel rather intense to younger viewers. During a lightning-triggered forest fire, for instance, a panicked Patchi, Scowler and their father are separated from the rest of their family. We hear screams indicating that Mom and the other siblings are being attacked. Then a Gorgosaurus attacks the boy's father, snapping at him and biting his neck. Though the death-dealing is done offscreen, it's made clear that the boys watch their father die while they cower beneath a fallen tree.
There are a number of other predator attacks like that (including one directed right at Scowler and Patchi) with roaring meat-eater monsters chomping at helpless victims and knocking them down. (We don't see any obvious blood or gore.)
Scowler foolishly leads the herd out onto a partially frozen lake. The ice begins to crack, and several heavy beasts burst through and drown. During a headbutting fight between Patchi and his brother, Scowler pushes Patchi into a ditch and thumps a heavy tree down on him. Small crabs are gobbled up whole. As a baby, Patchi is picked up by a hungry predator, and the attacking beast's tooth rips a hole in Patchi's head frill. A pterosaur pecks angrily at another's head.
Crude or Profane Language
One "jeez" and two or three uses of "oh my gosh." Scowler yells "bite me!" at his younger brother.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Excrement and vomit are just part of the daily life of these animals … and are also used as part of the movie's joke lexicon. For example: During a meat-eater attack on the herd, Scowler tells his brother, "They can smell fear." And Patchi whimpers out, "That's not fear." Juniper then quips, "I think I just stepped in some fear." Patchi gets hit with some stray dino poop at one point.
If you've ever watched a nature documentary that fleshes out and humanizes an animal herd's migratory dramas, you'll have a pretty good idea of what the computer-animated Walking With Dinosaurs has to offer. It's already being called March of the Dinosaurs in some online quarters, and there's definitely a Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom vibe about this one-dimensional kids' tale of dino derring-do.
The 3-D rendering is impressive and beautifully immersive. And each time a new dinosaur enters the scene, a placard spells out its name and gives us a bit of background. But instead of the usual narrator spelling out the animals' "thoughts," this drama is more fully anthropomorphized by way of stereotypical human voices overlaying the action—while still not linked to mouth movements like Happy Feet or Finding Nemo. That way the story doesn't exactly turn into a cartoon, yet we instantly know that she's the sweet one, there's the mean one, that's the geeky one, and he's the funny one. It's a cinematic hybrid that can feel a bit odd at times, particularly in light of the smattering of cheesy one-liners and myopically kid-focused poop, vomit and snot jokes.
On the other hand, there is a heroic underdino's tale here that the younger set very likely will enjoy and gain a bit of inspiration from. Hey, after all, if the cool dinosaur onscreen risks his life to come to his big brother's rescue, well, then maybe it's OK to sometimes share your toys with a sister or two!
So think of Walking With Dinosaurs as a souped-up 5th-grade science class filmstrip, with just enough drama to keep kids interested for at least three-quarters of the running time and just enough information and learning-emphasis to make the teacher happy with the time spent.