Some mighty impressive visual effects help render the time of the dinosaurs convincingly in Walking with Dinosaurs, a 3D take-off of the BBC’s six-part miniseries of the same name, chronicling the treacherous migrating lives of a pack of Pachyrhinosauruses. As a long-form reenactment, laced with educational asides provided by a chatty bird, voiced by John Leguizamo, the film is about as amiable as a History Channel special, but filmmakers Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale try to engineer a haphazard rom-com narrative from this base exercise. John Collee’s script begins in the vein of Bambi, only to then envision pack behavior and leadership through the lens of a love triangle between smart but dopey Pach (Justin Long), his aggressive brother (Skyler Stone), and Juniper (Tiya Sircar), whom both see as their natural mate. Even one of Barry White’s get-down classics (uncomfortably) soundtracks Pach and Juniper’s meet-cute.
The dinosaurs don’t talk so much as they communicate telepathically; their mouths don’t move to speak, but there’s nevertheless a clear, constant dialogue between them. This tactic is meant to accentuate the naturalism of the atmosphere, but there’s an unfortunate second outcome, as the imagined drama feels grafted on, a story being told at an unwavering disconnect from the admirable imagery. The strain to make the film both an educational tool and a child-minded entertainment is noticeable throughout, and it only underlines the crude dullness of the story, which is needlessly bookended with a present-day paleontologist (Karl Urban) laboring to get his nephew excited about dinosaurs again. The film presumably means to do the same, though it proves a nonstarter by the time Pach gets showered in Gastonia shit for some meager yucks.