Tuesday, June 1

Movie Review - The Land Before Time series part 2 (movies 2-6)

    A couple weeks ago I reviewed the first Land Before Time movie, and said I'd review the rest of the series (part 3 here.) Well, here's my second LBT review. Today I'm reviewing LBT two through six. Yup, I'm reviewing five LBT sequels in one week.

    Let's first take a break and talk about this series further though. Despite this being a kid's franchise, it actually has a fairly strong fan following. There are tons of fan-fiction writings, ranging from further sequels, stories of various romances involving the gang, crossovers, and even PG-13 versions of official material. The Land Before Time Wiki is actually one of the more impressive independent Wiki's on the internet, and the quality level almost rivals that of Halopedia. There are also several active fan forums despite that the most recent movie released in 2007. Considering how there are tons of closet fans of the franchise and it somehow lasted for 13 movies, Universal must have done something right at some point. Without any further introduction, let's kick this pig.

The Land Before Time 2: The Great Valley Adventure

    The Land Before Time 1 finishes off with happy ending and well done song for the credits. So how does number 2 start? It sounds alright at first - a modified version of the first movie's main theme. Then suddenly the baby dinosaurs burst into song. Yup, the first sequel starts right off with the horrifying realization that EVERY SINGLE SEQUEL IS A MUSICAL. Every LBT sequel has at least three songs. Not only that, but this song is just awkward. Seriously, the baby-ish singing voices are awkward, the tune is awkward, the words and timing are awkward...it's just awkward. Awkward is really the only word that can describe this mess. It's all about how the kids are supposed to be happy in the valley or something. This must be the worst song in the movie, right...right? Actually it's the best song in the movie. We are later forced to listen to a bad guy song which is an unholy mix of rap, opera, and ultra-snobbery. Listening to this song is about as entertaining as listening to a chalk board being scratched by metal nails. The third song in this movie is a rap song involving the baby-ish voices again, and complete with more awkward timing and lyrics.

    Another thing you'll quickly notice about this movie is how lazy the animation is. Seriously, the dinosaurs look incredibly slow while running, and most of the time there's only two or three frames a second. If you compare this to the original, you'll notice how fast and smooth the animation is. The backgrounds in the original are artistic and enhance the mood, but here they're just lazy and boring. The music is lazy as well, as most of it is a re-hash of the first movie's themes. There is some original music, but it's lame for the most part. The kids also scream way too much in this movie, and it will echo in your head by the time the movie's over.

    The worst part of this movie is that it completely ruins any meaning the first movie's ending had. The first movie talked about this valley being a nice green valley that offers plenty of food and protection from predators. This movie not only shows that egg predators exist in the valley, but the valley even has natural hazards. Any significance that this valley had in the first movie is totally lost here. The first movie is a perfect example of a movie that needs no sequel, and yet here we have not only one sequel, but twelve. Because this movie ruins the whole point of the great valley, all the suckage that follows in the entire series can be blamed on this one lazy entry.

    So is this movie all bad? Well, not really. We're introduced to Chomper, a baby sharp-tooth who brings an interesting dynamic to the gang. The five young dinosaurs try to raise him as their own child after he's separated from his parents, but the gang realize how hard it is to be parents. Chomper's parents find their way into the great valley By the end of the movie, he re-joins his biological parents and they leave the great valley. This movie also has plenty of variety in action, and the main bad-guys are schemers more than they are meat-eaters. Overall I'd skip this one unless you want to ruin the point of the first movie or see Chomper's introduction.

The Land Before Time 3: The Time Of The Great Giving

    Number three is an improvement over the second, but not by much. It's lesson makes more sense as it's a lesson about sharing. It also sees the valley dry up completely because a small meteor blocks the waterfall. This causes all the food to slowly die, for all the ponds and rivers to dry up, and a fire even burns down half the valley after a tree is struck by lightning. This movie almost feels epic at times, well...compared to the last one anyway.

    In this movie, the gang's main problem is the bullies, who pester the gang around the valley. Later on though, you  learn that the lead bully has a terrible father. When everyone has to work together, the gang and the bullies eventually get along and become friends. Some decent lessons for kids there, and even adults - treat your kids poorly and that's the only way they learn to treat others. It also introduces Velocirapters, who will be called "fast-biters" later in the series. The animation is improved over the second movie, but it's still choppy and uninspiring.

    So with those improvements, are the songs any better? Well, actually yes. The first song is an awful song by the pubescent bullies about being big. Seriously, William Hung sings better than these losers. The second song is a really crappy song where Cera's father tries to boss everyone around, next! The third song is a sad attempt at an emotional song where Littelfoot sings about the bullies being kids too, but it's easily the best song in the series so far. As bad as these three songs are, they're still an improvement over the terrible rap number and the painfully snobby bad-guy oprah. Overall, this movie's not really worth watching unless your a fan of the series in general, but it's still an improvement over the second.

The Land Before Time 4: Journey Through The Mists

    To sum it up, the fourth movie is a mixed bag in pretty much every sense. On the one hand, the animation is the choppiest of the entire series, but on the other hand there are some rather pretty looking moments. The movie is a little too scary for it's target audience (little kids,) but it's slow and boring for the rest of us. The bad guys comprise of a giant crocodile who can't see, and a bird who acts as her eyes. She is the only talking sharptooth up to this point. These two villains really can't get along, and I just can't take their partnership seriously. Another specific problem is that the screaming is even worse than LBT2 - you will get a headache, I guarantee it.

    We're introduced to yet another new character, Ali, a young girl longneck. Finally, Littlefoot has met another young longneck to play with. Don't get any ideas you perverts, this is a kids movie we're talking about. Littlefoot starts hanging out with Ali, and his friends feel jealous. To make matters worse, she's scared of Littlefoot's non-longneck friends and avoids them at first. Eventually though, everyone gets along and works together. When you really analyze this, it's really is just a rehash of the anti-racism themes from the first movie. Ali doesn't appear in any of the other sequels, and only appears in one TV episode, but she actually has a strong fan following.

    The only thing that truly improves in this sequel is the music. The new music actually fits the relatively spooky mood in the movie, and the songs are further improved from the last. We have an annoying bad-guy argument song yes, and a boring rip-off of "The Lion King's" "Circle Of Life", but the last song is almost good. I'm not kidding, we actually have a song that's almost good in a Land Before Time sequel. Overall, this entry is pretty unremarkable and isn't worth watching unless you're a fan of the series. It did have some good ideas, but the excecution leaves much to be desired.

The Land Before Time 5: The Mysterious Island

    Number five surprised me...in a good way. It's actually kind of good - no joke! It starts with the valley being attacked by what appears to be locusts. They eat all the food in the valley and everyone has to leave until the plantlife can grow again. The adults argue about where they should go after wandering in the desert for a few days, and decide to split off into their own directions. The gang doesn't like this, so they head out on their own to find food. They find the ocean, and an island full of vegitation with a path walking up toward it. They cross over to the island, but are trapped after the water rises. Worse, there are sharpteeth on the island, and the food doesn't taste so good.

    We then have our first song of the movie, which is actually a pretty catchy song about the "big water." Shortly after, we get another half-decent song about the gang missing their parents. Could the sequels actually be getting good now? The next morning, the gang is awoken by an approaching sharptooth. They run away until their cornered. Instead of attacking however, the sharptooth greets the gang and introduces himself as Chomper. Yup, Chomper returns in this movie, and his introduction rose powerful suspense without being too scary for kids. Once again, he adds an interesting dynamic to the group. While Littelfoot trusts Chomper, Cera tries to insist that all Sharptooths are evil. Chomper hides the gang from his parents and even brings them food, with yet another somewhat catchy song. By the end of the movie, Littlefoot saves Chomper from another Sharptooth and the gang earns the respect of Chomper's parents. They then escape the island with the help of a swimming "longneck" and re-unite with their parents.

    Overall, I'd say this sequel is actually not that bad. Sure, the animation still isn't that great, and they only introduce Chomper half-way through, but it's easily the best sequel so far. In fact, this almost feels like a necissary sequel. It's still hard to recommend to anyone that didn't see it as a kid, but it's a more than adequate follow up to LBT2 and brings me hope that maybe some of the later movies won't be so bad either.

The Land Before Time 6: Legend of Saurus Rock

    After the surprisingly decent fifth movie, you'd hope that number 6 could be a further improvement...it isn't. This was the last LBT movie I saw as a kid, and it was the one that turned me right off the series. After watching it again, I've realized why. After the vast improvement that number five was, number six is a significant step back for the series. It's just a really lame story about some lone dinosaur that shows up and disappears again. While he's around, the valley seems to have bad luck. A tornado wipes out half the land, water pools dry up, and other weird crap.

    The movie introduces two of Cera's nieces or something like that, but we'll never see or hear of them again. This is a good thing considering how annoying these two toddlers are. The songs have gone straight back to weak, including a stupid mock western about this lone dinosaur, an annoying song about bad luck, and another that's just plain boring. This movie's just so lame that it's not even worth commenting on. This is the most pointless entry in the series so far, and it just feels like a waste of time.

    So there you have it, my review of the first five LBT sequels. We have two movies with terrible animation, a bunch of songs ranging from boring to painful, and one movie out of the five that's actually worth watching if you're in the mood. So far, every sequel re-uses much of the original's music. I have no idea how the series lasted up to this point, but Universal has a unique talent for milking franchises that couldn't be milked in the first place.

    One thing I've noticed after watching these movies again is how many times the Great Valley has been damaged or nearly destroyed. Within five movies, it's been attacked by Sharpteeth, dried up, burnt, eaten by locusts, and devastated by a Tornado. I'm sure by now the dinosaurs would have had to move on, and yet somehow the valley restores itself without any sing of growth or aging in the five young dinosaurs. I know the series is for kids, but is it too hard to have at least some consistency? Time for a Barrage of two word reviews.

LBT 2: Painful Mess

LBT 3: Improved Mess

LBT 4: Plain Boring

LBT 5: Surprisingly Decent

LBT 6: Wasted Time

Next week, I'll be reviewing the remaining seven movies. Seeing as how they have no nostalgic value to me whatsoever, I'm honestly worried about my sanity. What horrors can the excessive sequel syndrome come up with next?

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