Tuesday, June 8

Movie Review - The Land Before Time series part 3 (movies 7-13)

    This is my third LBT review in my series (part 1 here, part 2 here.) This is a long one, and I've already done plenty of introductions in the previous two reviews, so let's just dig right into it. Here's my review of all the Land Before Time movies I didn't see as a kid.

The Land Before Time 7: The Stone of Cold Fire

    To sum up LBT 7, it's probably the weirdest entry into the series - that's saying a lot. We start off with Littlefoot seeing a rock with a trailing blue fire move across the sky and land on a mountain outside the valley. Nobody believes him at first, but then two strange dinosaurs called "rainbow faces" encourage everyone in the valley to open their minds. It's strange how these two seem to know more than they're letting on, but more on that later. They suggest that maybe this rock has some great magical power, calling it a "Stone of Cold Fire". Littlefoot finds the concept of a magical rock intriguing, and so do his friends. Some of the adult dinosaurs believe the "rainbow faces", while others write them off as crazy. As always, the adults decide to do nothing while Littlefoot wants to check it out. Petrie's uncle Pterano shows up however, and wants this magical power so that he can "lead" the dinosaurs of the great valley. He even kidnaps Ducky after she overhears them, and flies off with his gang toward the mysterious rock overnight. Yeah, that will really help the other adults trust you, kidnap a child and head toward a magical rock for unlimited powers. The adults argue for way too long about what to do, so Littlefoot's gang has to take matters into their own hands...again.

    Let me explain Pterano for a second. After the great earthquake in the first movie, the adults all banded together to find the Great Valley. Pterano tried to become the heard's leader, and broke the heard in two. Pterano ended up leading his group to their death, and he was the only survivor. You could probably imagine that the remaining dinosaurs weren't overly happy with that. Pterano refuses to take responsibility and still believes he should be the leader. He is by far the most complex villain in the LBT series, and I have to give the creators props for that. His character arc and development are fairly well done too, and he's the main reason this movie is better than the previous entry. Apart from Pterano, nearly everything else in this movie is medeocre at best.

    The majority of the movie is pretty much a race between the gang of five and Pterano's gang of three flyers as they all try to reach the rock first. Along the way, the "rainbow faces" observe and help the kids reach the top with SCIENCE! This shows us that the "rainbow faces" are far too smart to be dinosaurs. They eventually find the "stone of cold fire" first, only to discover that it's just an ordinary rock sitting atop a volcano. Pterano's two "helpers" betray him and try to take the power for themselves. Pterano finally understands the error in his ways and redeems himself by saving the kids from the volcano which starts to erupt. He is banished from the valley for several years for his actions, but he's acknowledged his errors and apologized to everyone. The following evening, the two "rainbow faces" have a short conversation with Littlefoot about how he's remarkably bright for his age. They then disappear in a bright light like...wait what? Aliens in spaceships? That's certainly what this looks like. I thought I was watching a dinosaur movie, not Star Trek meets Jurassic Park. See, I told you this movie's weird.

    This isn't necessarily a bad movie, but it feels extremely out of place. The basic lesson here is that sometimes you have to ask questions or search for the truth yourself. A decent lesson I'll admit, but did they really need aliens to teach us this? Apart from that, you have a somewhat inspirational song, and two harmless songs that don't help or hurt the movie. Besides that, it's actually got a relatively complex villain who redeems himself in the end. This is also the only movie in the franchise that doesn't include any sharpteeth. It's hard for me to condemn this one entirely, but I won't give it a pass either. LBT 7 certainly has it's moments, but it's just too weird for it's own good.

The Land Before Time 8: The Big Freeze

    This sequel was a pleasant surprise, and actually feels like a necessary sequel. One major difference between this movie and the previous movies is that they started to use computer animations. As a result, this movie actually looks pretty good at times, and the animation isn't as slow or lazy as before. There are awkward looking moments, but it's still a huge improvement over most of the earlier sequels. Whenever the gang is running toward the camera, the ground suddenly appears and disappears. It's hard to explain, but it looks like the gang's running on a giant rotating log that's painted in various rock and grass patterns. It just looks wrong, but that's really my only complaint here. Anyway, enough about the animation.

    The movie itself was actually kind of good, no joke. Spike finally meets other spiketails in this movie as they were migrating to avoid snow. Spike hangs out with their herd and kids for a while, which makes Ducky jealous and upset. One night, Littlefoot is awoken by some snow falling in the valley. By the next morning, the valley is covered in snow. This covers up the valley's food, which will serve as this movie's primary plot point. While the valley dinosaurs enjoy it at first, they quickly learn how cold the winter gets and how hard it is to find "green food". The Spiketails leave the valley in search of their own food, and Spike decides to join them. This leads to a heartwarming song about how the gang, especially Ducky, misses him.

    Ducky eventually sneaks out of the valley on her own to try to catch up with her adopted brother, and once the gang find out they chase after her. An older dinosaur whose been teaching them tags along as well, and it's a learning experience for everyone. This dinosaur had been previously bragging about all his adventures in the Mysterious Beyond, but he eventually reveals that he's never been outside the valley before in his life. He was a very shy kid and didn't have many friends, but he'd often listen to the travelers who would pass through the valley. He would often teach of what he learned to try to earn respect. I was surprised by how deep this character was, especially for a movie targeting younger children. Through him, there's also a lesson about how your never too old to learn.

    To sum the movie up, everything turns out fine and Spike eventually decides to stay with his Great Valley family. Besides the surprisingly good story, there were also plenty of laughs in this sequel. Seriously, there were several laugh out loud moments, mostly involving Cera's loud voice. In addition to this, the songs actually add to the movie this time around, and they range from catchy/funny to meaningful. It's actually pretty hard to come up with any specific flaws with this movie, apart from the occasionally awkward animation. If you're in the mood for a decent family movie and enjoyed the first LBT, I would actually recommend this one, and it's raised my hopes for the rest of the series.

The Land Before Time 9: Journey to the Big Water

    Of course right after the best sequel so far they had to throw the most annoying sequel at us. So what ruined this movie? One new character with a one syllable name - Mo!

    The movie starts with the valley getting partially flooded by several straight days of rain. Somehow, a fish from the "Big Water" is trapped in the flooded section of the valley. The kids decide to help him find his way back to the ocean. My question is, how would rain bring an ocean fish into a valley like this? Wouldn't the valley have a much higher altitude than the ocean? Judging by the number of waterfalls the gang encounters, I would assume so. Seriously, Mo's appearence makes absolutely no sense, and he's is one of the most annoying movie characters I've ever seen. His voice is annoying, his character is annoying, he's...actually worse than Jar Jar Binks - I wish I was making that up. Even when he's not around though, this movie feels like little more than a waste of time. This movie actually has four songs instead of the usual three: three pointless new songs that just seem to drag on, and a slow, boring rendition of the "Big Water" song from LBT5.

    Needless to say, the gang successfully brings Mo to the ocean again, where we meet his entire family. What? One was annoying enough, but now we see dozens of them? Where are my happy pills? I need happy pills! I would avoid this one at all costs - it's the worst LBT sequel so far.

The Land Before Time 10: The Great Longneck Migration

    After "Journey to the Big Water" nearly annoyed me to death, I was thankful to learn that number 10 was actually pretty good. Just like number 8, this feels like a necessary sequel. The animation has improved further since number eight, and actually has some pretty looking scenes. Littlefoot and his grandparents are having similar re-occurring dreams and, no wait - "sleep stories". OK, this "dino talk" is starting to get ridiculous. "Green food" and basic descriptions of dinosaur types are alright, but now we're getting awkward words for dreams? Anyway, they feel that they have to leave the valley but they don't understand why. Before they leave, we hear the catchiest song in the series to date - "Adventuring." Littlefoot's friends become jealous of Littlefoot's adventure, and decide to start following him that night.

    During Littlefoot's adventure, we see that other longnecks are also having this re-occurring dream, and their all traveling in the same direction. Before long, Littlefoot and his grandparents are traveling with dozens of other longnecks toward a large crater-shaped valley. Hundreds of longnecks of various types end up in this giant crater, and most of Littlefoot's screen time in this movie takes place here. I was a little disappointed that Ali didn't show up, however another more important longneck does - Littlefoot's biological father. He's also voiced by Jack Bauer.

    This movie brings us a character that has never even been mentioned before, and yet he really should have been. It turns out Littlefoot's father, Bron, was looking for a safe location for Littlefoot to be raised. Before Bron could re-join with his family though, the great earthquake of the first movie split him off. After a while, he became the leader of a large heard of Longnecks, and sort of adopted a youngling called "Shorty." Littlefoot spends most of his time in the crater getting to know his father as Shorty becomes violently jealous. Even so, Littlefoot takes pity on him and even offers a "brother" type relationship. This earns Littlefoot Shorty's friendship. Of course, his friends from the Great Valley show up seconds later - being chased by a sharptooth. This leads to an action sequence that is actually kind of epic, but I won't spoil it for you here.

    After all the longnecks leave the crater, Littlefoot is forced to choose between his father & adopted brother and his grandparents & friends. This leads to the best song in the series, and the credits version could have been released as a radio single. He decides to stay with his grandparents & friends, but convinces his father to officially adopt Shorty. Besides what I've already described, we get some rather creative story elements that I won't spoil in this review and the only completely original soundtrack in all of the sequels. I was actually very impressed with this movie, and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. So is it a perfect movie? Well, not quite. The middle song, while harmless enough, could have been much better. The animation is still awkward at times, but it's still the best looking sequel yet. Besides that, I can't think of too many ways to improve this one. It might be because the previous movie was so bad, but right now I'd argue that LBT 10 is almost as good as the original. Of course, it's all downhill from here.

The Land Before Time 11: Invasion of the Tinysauruses

    This movie is a waste of time in every sense of the word. The lesson is about telling the truth, and while it sort of works, it's the only thing that works in this movie. It's main plot point is of these tiny longnecks that live in caves around the valley. Besides that, you have a side-plot about Cera's father starting a relationship with a childhood friend named Tria. Tria seems overly soft and kind for a threehorn and comes across as little more than cheesy. There's also a really stupid run-on joke about Littlefoot being small for his age.

    Know what, I haven't mentioned that the kids haven't grown at all throughout the sequels yet for a reason. I was saving this rant for this sequel in particular. Why are all the adults commenting on how short Littlefoot is now? Why did they wait for the 10th sequel to bring this up? Why is it just running joke? Do they think anyone would care at this point? If you really want to bring up the lack of growth in the kids throughout the series, why not joke about how much the valley has been through as well? Seriously, it's been dried up, burnt, ravaged by a swarm of locusts, destroyed by a tornado, frozen, flooded, and attacked several times by sharpteeth. I think it's more impressive how much the valley has gone through, and yet still manages to regrow without anyone aging at all.

    Let's talk more about these tiny longnecks. They're just, well...there. Littlefoot tells everyone that these little longnecks ate all the "treesweats" off a treesweat tree. What these treesweats are they never really explained, but they look like flowers. The whole concept of these "treesweats" does nothing but remind me of how ridiculous this "dino" language has become in these movies. I know it's for kids, but you're taking this way too far. Anyway, everyone obsesses over these treesweets so much that they start angrily hunting for these tiny longnecks in an effort to drive them out. This results in multiple renditions of a "creepy crawlies" song, making this the second sequel with more than two songs. Of course this song's little more than a waste of time, as are the others. Eventually though, the gang find their cave and begin to help them out by sneaking them food overnight.

    Littlefoot doesn't tell anyone the truth about how he knocked all the treesweats down, and when disaster strikes everyone gets mad at Littlefoot. This would make a good plot point except they exaggerated it way too much. Fastbiters somehow find their way into the valley and attack, and the little longnecks actually help get rid of them. Everyone gets along in the end, and we see the treesweat tree some time later ready to be eaten again. They make a stupid joke about how Littlefoot grew a little, but at this point it's too late for us to care. Overall, a stupid movie that has too many side-plots that distract from the central theme. Don't bother with this one, not that you were going to anyway.

The Land Before Time 12: The Great Day of the Flyers

    In the past we've had movies that primarily focus on different characters. Littlefoot is the central character throughout the franchise, but we've also had movies focusing more on his co-stars. Number five focused on chomper, even if he only showed up half-way through. Number eight focused on Ducky and Spike, and number 11 had plenty of focus on Cera. What we haven't yet had was a movie that focused primarily on Petrie. Well, here we are at Petrie's starring moment. Is it good? Well, it's better than the last one, I'll give it that much.

    The Day of the Flyers is a growing up ceremony for young flyers like Petrie. It's a pretty cool concept, but it's never really explained too well. Besides that, Cera has a new step-sister, Tricia. She is jealous at first of her sister gaining all her father's attention, but eventually grows very close to Tricia. Tricia is a fine example of cuteness overload, but that's certainly better than Cera's annoying nieces from the sixth movie that we've thankfully never seen since. Instead, we get another annoying side character named Guido. He's annoyingly weird, but still not as bad as Mo from LBT 9. Guido is a glider, but he doesn't know it yet. He is sort of adopted into Petrie's family since nobody knows what kind of dinosaur he is or whose family he belongs to. He ends up helping Petrie prepare for the day of the flyers.

    Let me explain the day of the flyers better. It's where tons of young flyers gather into the same place and fly in formation with their siblings. Their are judges that help decide whose ready and who isn't. I'm not sure what that means, but it's not important to the plot so who cares. Petrie is having trouble flying with his siblings throughout the movie, and his siblings really start to bother him about it. He mostly brought Guido into his family to have someone to back him up, but Guido ends up fitting in quite well.

    What ruins this movie for me is the incredibly drawn out scene where Guido is sleep-walking. This takes up a full quarter of the movie - no exaggeration here - and just feels forced on. It's a poor excuse to add in a sharptooth action scene and a cheap way to reveal that Guido's a glider. On the flip-side, the movie ends with a rather well done song combined with the day of the flyers. Petrie ends up flipping just outside formation, and his sibblings end up doing the same. This ends up changing the day of the flyers forever, and it's the highlight of the movie. Somehow this movie made Petrie far less annoying than I had expected, and despite it's flaws it certainly wasn't a bad movie. Overall, my feelings about this one are mixed. It contains some great moments, but it also contains several scenes that dragged on far too long. I'll give this one a C for effort, but nothing more.

The Land Before Time 13: The Wisdom of Friends

    Finally, the last of the LBT movies. Is it a good way to close out the series? Nope! Once again, we are introduced to an annoying character. Unlike previous sequels however, there's more than one new annoying character - there are dozens of annoying new characters. The gang somehow meet three bird-like dinosaurs that instantly reminded me of dodo birds. Even if they're called "yellow bellies" throughout the film, I'll just call them dodos.

    These dodos never shut up. They talk in these annoyingly stupid voices and have all sorts of crazy sayings that make no sense until the end of the movie. Beyond that, this movie brings in even more "dino" language that we could live without, including "wisdoms" and well..."yellow bellies." The term "yellow bellies" doesn't even fit the dodos at all - half the time they're too stupid to be scared when they should be. The overall lesson is that everyone has their own "wisdoms," but you have to sit through this entire annoyance to get it. I'd talk more about this movie, but the series is already tiring enough. If I don't save my strength for the TV series next week, I'm going to lose my mind. Besides, I've already summed up the whole feature. I'll just finish this massive post with my barrage of two word reviews.

LBT 7: What the?

LBT 8: Surprisingly funny

LBT 9: Incredibly annoying

LBT 10: Fairly good

LBT 11: Wasted time

LBT 12: Very mixed

LBT 13: Tiresomely annoying

Well, that's it for this week, next week I dig deep into this black hole of a series that really shouldn't have become a series in the first place. Next week, I review the entire TV series, so hopefully I'll have more happy pills before then.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool! I'll have to check out LBT8 -- thanks for the great reviews!