Did dinosaurs feel love? Walking With Dinosaurs must argue yes, as the genre of animal-centric edutainment has settled on hustling for respectability by propping up heterosexual norms. Unfailingly, these films go through life’s showiest moments as dutifully as encyclopedia entries: birth, courtship, reproduction, always from a male point of view. But the point of Walking With Dinosaurs is to look, not to learn. And this new 3-D spectacle is a visual miracle. The animation comes alive through a celebration of corporeality: the jiggle of fat, the stretch and release of sagging skin, the tidelike motions of tendons and arteries beneath pebbled skin. The dinosaurs themselves are crafted with love and creative extravagance. Set against live-action footage of Alaskan and New Zealand landscapes, they barely stand out as the products of ones and zeroes. And the species at the film’s core are outfitted with horned headdresses so outlandishly rococo they would make Louis XIV weep with jealousy. If only they didn’t speak, or had anyone speak for them. Virtually every breath of these wonderful lizard gods is overexplained by a logorrheic narrator (John Leguizamo), a time-traveling bird who sounds like he’s studying for the SATs (“prehistoric pugilism,” “mayhem in the ranks”). The awkwardly sophisticated avian patter jars with the barely there romance between two pachyrhinosauri. The only solace from the uninspired characters and crammed-in factoids are the gags about poop and puke — juvenile, yes, but also appropriate for the film’s “back to nature” ethos.
Barry Cook, Neil NightingaleJustin Long, John LeguizamoJohn ColleeMike Devlin, Amanda Hill, Deepak Nayar20th Century Fox