You may argue that most of the crappy dinosaur movies featured in Dino Dicember are “puerile excuses for entertaiment” or some crap like that, so you know what, let’s actually review a dinosaur movie made for kids or intended as a “family picture”. No, not the Land Before Time series (yes, it’s a series). No, not “We’re Back! A Dinosaur Story!” No, there’s not a live-action movie adaptation of Cadillac & Dinousars.. yet, you never fuckin know with the nostalgia market.
Because i’m stupid, we’re gonna do something less known and far more recent, the austrialian My Pet Dinosaur, directed, written and produced by Matt Drummond, who previously directed Dinosaur Island (2014), and cured visual effects for TV documentaries and TV movies like Attack Of The Sabretooth.
Never heard of them either, so no harm no foul.
Jake Emory is a boy living in a small and not quite booming town. When an experiment goes wrong, Jake happens to encounter and befriend a small dinosaur, and tries to hide it from everyone else, for obvious reasons. But as the dinosaur – dubbed “Magnus” – rapidly evolves and gets bigger, Jake realizes people will just find out of his friend’s existence, and with the help of new girl on the block Abbie, he also notices that some strange people are also searching for his pet dinosaur…
The plot sadly is exactly what you might, the typical “boy and his dog” story that is highly derivative of E.T., Spielberg’s cinema in general, 80’s Spielberg cinema to be even more precise (and the 80’s type of children films, with kids meeting after curfew to go where they shouldn’t, the specific composition of the group of friends Jake has, the asshole-ish older brother, etc.), formulaic and overdone. Because it is. It may come off as charmingly nostalgic, or not, personally i think it’s a bit more grating than “charming”, but it’s formulaic regardless.
That said, this doesn’t necessarily makes My Pet Dinosaur a bad movie, but it’s hard to say there are surprises in it, you know exactly how it will all play out if you’ve seen this type of movie before, even once, but undeniably the selling point of a movie like this isn’t the characterization, the plot, but the creature and the special effects, and i gotta say, this isn’t half bad, they clearly wanted to make the dinosaur look good, and they did a good job even if the production values are limited, not really “low budget”, but far from being “big money Industrial Light & Magic” material.
The cast is pretty much all made of australian actors i’ve never seen or heard off, and they are… ok, This one happens to be streaming on Amazon Prime Video in my country, dubbed, so i don’t know how much that factors in. Not that the characters themselves are that likeable, even the ones they’re supposed to, and you don’t care for some of conflict, when you barely know some of these people. Again, nothing bad, but nothing that will make you invested in the characters in any significant way.
The dinosaur itself it’s cute enough, though, and if it’s dinosaurs you want, you get a surprisingly decent variety of gooey alien dinosaurs (and UFOs) a lot in the final act, and direction is fine, so i wan’t really bored by the movie, it goes by fairly quickly without ever feeling it’s dragging itself to 90 minutes and the obvious happy ending.
I have to preface i don’t really have experience with this type of children movies (and apparently there are a lot of dinosaur family movies, put out mostly by the usual low-budget shlock production houses of the 2000s and 2010s), so i can’t really say how My Pet Dinosaur fares in comparison, but i can say it’s alright, not totally mediocre or phoned in “because it’s a children movie”, even though they could have made something less derivative of the obvious go-to movies of the 80s.
I’m more a thing i would recommend watching with your children, for them, as this doesn’t really add anything substantial to the decades old formula and sensibilieties. If you’re on a solo quest to watch and review all dinosaur movies or something..you can do worse, it’s perfectly watchable.