September 18, 2008

The Land Before Time (1988)

Well, this review was to have been for 2005’s Doogal, but instead our TiVo recorded Jim Carrey’s The Mask. Okay. Plan B: Raid the DVD cabinet for something my boy hasn’t watched in a while...

Which lead us to The Land Before Time. The movie, not for real. Though that would have rocked pretty hard.

The Land Before Time was “a George Lucas/Steven Spielberg presentation” and directed by Don Bluth, a longtime Disney animator whose non-Disney films (The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, All Dogs Go To Heaven) tend to lean more towards “serious” storylines versus fairy-tale, Disney-esque fables.

Plot: Kid brontosaurus Littlefoot (Gabriel Damon) is the last hope for his family’s (and his race’s) survival. Guided by the dying words of his mother (a T. Rex got the better of her) and separated from all adult dinosaurs due to an earth-splitting quake, Littlefoot takes his group of kid dino friends with him to seek out the “Great Valley,” which supposedly has enough plant life, water, and food to last for generations.

The Land Before Time takes itself very seriously for a G-rated kids film. There are little or no high jinks and few “cute” scenes. In fact, the film carries a solemn, dreary appearance and tone, punctuated by lots of perilous scenes featuring earthquakes, volcanoes, and a ferocious predator (the aforementioned T. Rex).

Not only that, the kid dinosaurs are more annoying than endearing – they’re as two-dimensional as their animation, with character development largely replaced with lots of “am-not / are-too” dialogue.

Of course, all this is Cynical Dad talking. My 5-year-old son (and dinosaur buff) seemed to enjoy the movie, not taking his eyes off the screen or asking me random questions in slow parts of the film.

• A haunting, angelic score permeates most of The Land Before Time, and it made me think of the sad parts of Titanic. Sure enough, the film’s score was done by Titanic’s James Horner.
• According to The Internet Movie Database, The Land Before Time has spawned 12 (count ‘em) direct-to-video sequels, plus two sing-along videos, two video games, and a short-lived TV series.

Rating: 2 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids want to watch it?
Any pre-teen who’s into dinosaurs is probably aware of the Land Before Time series, and would want to see this movie. If that’s the case, I’m not sure how you’ll be able to dissuade them from wanting to watch this film. Maybe you can steer them to one of the sequels for a more rewarding experience…?

Toddler warning: Littlefoot and his gang are chased several times by an angrily drawn T. Rex, which may be too intense for wee ones. I asked my 5-year-old if the T. Rex was scary. His reply: “Sort of.”

Will your FilmMother like it?
I think mother and father alike will find The Land Before Time a bit of a drag to watch, in both its tone and lack of momentum – with a 69-minute running time, it sure seemed a lot longer.

The Land Before Time
* Director: Don Bluth
* Screenwriter: Stu Krieger
* Stars: Judith Barsi, Gabriel Damon, Bill Erwin, Pat Hingle, Candace Hutson, Will Ryan, Helen Shaver
* MPAA Rating: G

Buy this movie for less at >>


Anonymous said...

Your review sucks, Dad! You're too old to remember your imagination. I watched this movie before I was school age. As for suggesting a sequel to older kids? The sequels are awful. The first movie is the only good one, and pre-teens would be too old to watch this cartoon meant for kindergarten kids.

Anonymous said...

Previous "Anonymous" before me is completely correct! I loved this movie (AND understood it) when I was four and I still love it as an adult. It's a refresher from all of those "kids are too little to understand" animated movies that dumb down scenarios because they think children are too fragile to deal with serious scenarios and then throw in so many songs you can't find the plot. Kudos to Don Bluth for not categorizing children in with idiots!
As for the rest of the collection, it is a complete waste of time, and neither I, nor my children will be viewing any of them again any time soon.

Neil Dunsmore said...

Yeah, I find this a little ironic, especially when you praised Toy Story 3, which had a lot of similar elements. This is part of what bothers me about your oldest reviews like this one. You go all soccer-parent mode with these instead of judging them by their stories whereas in your later reviews, you seem a lot more forgiving. But while we're on the subject of Bluth, I recently wrote out something regarding Bluth's 90's films I figured you might be interested in:


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