Monday, February 8, 2016

Fourteenth in the Series- Let That Sink in a Bit: "The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave" (2016)

When my teenage sons were young children, and in the throes of dinosaur worship that many boys go through, I would get my hands on every "The Land Before Time" videotape I could find. This new entry in the series, the fourteenth, is on par with all of those direct-to-video sequels I used to suffer through. The kids may be enthralled, but parents- you're going to have a miserable time.

The simplistic plot (because kids can't handle the actual storytelling that Pixar and Disney, among other studios, dish out year after year) goes like this: young brontosaurus Littlefoot (voiced by Felix Avitia) and his young dinosaur friends go in search of his father Bron (voiced by Scott Whyte), who was last seen trapped near a fire mountain...that's a volcano to you and me. They meet assorted wacky characters voiced by the likes of Damon Wayans, Jr. and Reba McEntire.

Wayans and McEntire are the best things about this thing only because their voices are something different in a film that you have seen a million times before. Wayans isn't allowed to cut loose or anything, but his mere vocal tone is a welcome distraction. McEntire actually shows a little comic timing here and there as a pterodactyl named Edda. Barry Bostwick takes over for the late Kenneth Mars as Littlefoot's grandfather, but the rest of the cast doesn't stand out because this thing is so uninteresting. The songs will have you rolling your eyes; there's one called "Hot & Stinky" that I cannot get out of my head no matter how many times I stop in the middle of a crowd, stick my fingers in my ears, and scream at the top of my lungs. Again, McEntire comes off well because she can actually sing, and she belts out her otherwise mediocre song with spirit.

I recognize the director Doi's name from some writing credits on a couple of really well-done Scooby Doo videos from a few years back (the kids loved those), but here, his direction never goes anywhere. The script is cliche-ridden and dull. Very young kids might get caught up in the adventure, and the screen is certainly full of colorful scenes that will keep them hypnotized and glued to the screen for over eighty uninterrupted minutes, but after fourteen entries in this series, and I saw at least the first seven or so, the characters are lackluster and never seem to change. The film makers throw a few new ones in to freshen things up, but since the outcome is already so predictable, I didn't care.

The first theatrical entry in the series was good, but it's been a thirteen episode slide downhill since. As long as there are children and viewing devices, and parents willing to shell out money for unchallenging second-rate animated flicks so they can have an hour or so of peace and quiet, then things like "The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave" will continue to be made. I regret taking this Journey from the very beginning. (*) out of five stars.

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