The film starts off with Ricky (Charlie Rowe), who's stuck in Alaska with his sister Jade (Angourie Rice) for vacation time with his uncle Zack (a surprising appearance by Karl Urban). Uncle Zack is a paleontologist who takes his niece and nephew on an excavation. Ricky is completely not interested in digging for dinosaur bones, until he comes across a bird who starts talking to him. Strangely enough, Ricky isn't freaked out by this notion, doesn't even flinch.
The bird, named Alex (voice of John Leguizamo), then begins to narrate the rest of the story about Patchi (voice of Justin Long), a Pachyrhinosaur, who must survive through lightning storms, losing his parents, migrating south and compete with his brother Scowler (voice of Skyler Stone) for the love of Juniper (voice of Tiya Sircar). And yes, the last part plays out very anti-feminine and melodramatic, which made some of the kids in the theater to complain that they didn't know it was going to be a love story.
Dinosaurs are interesting creatures. There's no doubt about that. There's also no doubt that this film intended to be better than it is, but there's no helping that now. The CGI is pretty extraordinary... and really, they should have left it at that because that's the only good thing anyone will most likely say about the film. Though it looks like the graphics were completed long before the dialogue was and they added it to better cater to kids. This makes it even worse. The film would have played better as a TV special minus the talking, because even people like Justin Long and John Leguizamo can't save this movie from a wretched script. Half the time, the dialogue sounds forced. It's extremely cheesy to the point of making everyone struggle while listening to the words.
The story tries to make some drama, making rivals out of Patchi and his brother Scowler. The supposed love story between Patchi and Juniper is forced and a terrible example to give little girls watching because Juniper's only purpose in the story is to be caught between the two males. She doesn't have much of a personality and goes with whoever is running the pack at the time with no real sense of remorse.
People underestimate children. The original 1999 documentary series is tasteful, educational, intriguing, and no-nonsense. It proves that documentaries about dinosaurs could be entertaining without making them into a children-targeted narrative. Children and parents alike were bored with this film. The dinosaurs never actually move their mouths, and the talking is so awful that watching a silent dinosaur film might have had more entertainment value.
Besides having an abysmal plot and no mouth-moving seemingly telepathic dinosaurs, the only educational tidbits are the ones given after a new dinosaur is introduced. Alex the narrator will give us the name of the dinosaur, what the name means, and whether or not they're a herbivore or carnivore. Children will be more educated watching something like the original series or The Magic Schoolbus rather than this atrocity of a movie.