Tuesday, June 15

Movie Review - The Land Before Time series part 4 (TV series)

    At last, the final review for the entire “Land Before Time” series (part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here.)  So in the last month I've reviewed every single Land Before Time movie made to date, but now I dig deep into how bad this series really gets. So far I've been pleasantly surprised - some of the sequels are actually pretty good. When I think about it though, how could it have lasted for 13 movies if there weren't any good sequels? They also created 26 half-hour TV episodes over a single season, which is what I’m reviewing today. Obviously I can't talk about every single episode separately, so I'll just sum up the whole show…HOLY CRAP IT SUCKS!

    Admittedly there are a few good things about the show, and there were a few decent episodes, but overall this show really displays how dry this cow truly is. First, I'll explain the good parts. Chomper is back as a main character for the TV show. Seriously he's in every episode, and like Movie numbers 2 and 5 he adds an interesting dynamic to the group. His character is greatly expanded throughout the TV series, as he's shown to be the most excitable member of the gang. He's also very helpful with avoiding sharpteeth, being that he thinks like them. They also focus plenty on how other dinosaurs react to Chomper, and even in the bad episodes this is usually done well. It's worth noting that Chomper's voice actor, while not bad at speaking, is tone deaf when he sings.

    In addition to Chomper, there's another new character called Ruby, an Oviraptor. She wasn't completely necessary, but she does add a voice of reason and knowledge to the gang. She's also very kind and empathetic towards others. Overall, she's a good addition to the gang, but she also feels a bit wasted. The show also introduces some regular bad-guys - a large and brutal sharptooth named "Red-Claw" and his two fast biter friends. A number of the episodes show the gang running away from the pre-historic three stooges. Personally I think these guys are lame, but having a regular "bad guy" isn't a bad idea. Another thing they did right with the TV series is that nearly every minor and/or one-shot characters throughout the films returns at least once, even if most of those episodes are crap.

    I also must comment on the animation. While some episodes are flawed in this department, the show's animation is pretty good overall. It might not be as smooth or pretty as the most recent movies, it's still much better than your average kid's TV show. I also noticed several episodes that actually displayed an attention to detail, which surprised me. The show's theme song is short and somewhat catchy, although the lyrics don't really make much sense. The background music during the actual show, well...what do you expect from a Kid's TV show? It's cheap and crappy, but you'll forget about it soon enough. The TV show doesn't borrow any music from the movie series, which probably would have improved it.

    I’ve talked enough about the good, now for the bad. Somehow they managed to stick two songs into every episode. What? Having songs in the movies was bad enough, but now we have to stick songs into the TV series as well? Twenty Four minutes is a pretty short time to tell a story as it is, but by sticking in these songs you only make the episodes even shorter. There are even a few good episodes that could have benefited from that extra time to focus even more on what was going on. You might be wondering how they came up with two songs for each episode too, well...they sort of don't. There are three or four new "tunes" that they use throughout the series, occasionally with different lyrics or tones. At their first listen, these songs aren't all that bad. You have a rock-ish theme for when someone's angry or scheming, a really simple short song that isn't too intrusive, a soft, comforting song (sort of,) and a happy song for when, well...there's a happy ending. However, after you hear each of these ten or fifteen times, they tend to get tiresome. They also took one of the catchier songs from the movies, "Adventuring" from LBT10, and overused it to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore. Thank you TV series, you just ruined the best LBT sequel for me.

    Another problem with this TV series is how annoying it often gets. Petrie is far more annoying here than he is during the movies for the most part. Most of the secondary characters are horribly voice-acted and sound nothing like their movie counterparts. I realize it's hard to get every voice actor back for their minor characters, but you could at least try to find someone that sounds similar. Instead, you have some of the most, well, off voices imaginable. Cera was often proud and arrogant throughout the movies, but here they often take that way too far. Most of the episodes where the better one-shot characters returned are just lame, and it usually feels like the creators threw them in as fan service. Several episodes even rip off the story-lines from the movies, like the episode where the waterfall dries up again.

    I might as well talk about several episodes while I'm writing this. First off, "Escape From the Mysterious Beyond," which was probably the best episode in the series. The gang is lost in the mysterious beyond somehow, and must evade a trio of sharpteeth. After they run up some cliffs, there is an "earthshake." Chomper and Ducky are somehow trapped on a small rock pillar, separated from the rest of the group. To make matters worse, one of "Red Claw's" fast-biters is with them, although his tail is stuck beneath a bunch of rocks. Chomper and the fast biter roar back and forth at each other, and Chomper also comforts Ducky. This episode really develops Chomper as a character and shows what a great concept he really is. Eventually they escape, but Chomper helps the fast biter loose before they leave with the gang. To return the favor, the fast biter distracts the other two sharpteeth to help the gang escape later on. This episode was executed very well in general, and I actually watched it several times. There were several other decent episodes, but this one was easily the best.

    This paragraph will sum up the worst episodes and/or the most disappointing. The most annoying episode by far is "Meadow of Jumping Waters" - Petrie never shuts up. He constantly complains about bad luck, and you just feel like shooting that winged Jar Jar Binks like in Duck Hunt. A close second being "The Missing Fast Water Adventure," which is the episode I mentioned earlier where the waterfall stops again. Long story short, Mo returns. Mo's not quite as bad as he was in the movie, but still really annoying. The episode where Littlefoot's father, Bron, returns is just plain stupid; Littlefoot has to pass some "Big Longneck Test" or something, but it's a weak excuse for his father to return. Also, Bron's voice sounds way off here. Ali's return was also a disappointment as it focused too much on Chomper. Yes, Ali meeting Chomper could have been neat, but they play it off like he's just another dinosaur.

    Overall, the TV show did not disappoint - it was just as bad as I thought it might be. With the exception of two or maybe three episodes, the entire TV series just provides evidence that this series should be put to rest. It's kind of sad too, because some of the movies actually showed plenty of potential, as did the "Escape From the Mysterious Beyond" episode. Overall though the TV show was terrible, and it's time for my regular two-word review:

Pointlessly Dreadful

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