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Originally published Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 12:12 AM

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‘Walking with Dinosaurs’: It’s cute and, shhh, educational

A 2.5-star movie review of “Walking with Dinosaurs 3D,” a family film complete with state-of-the-art animation, cutesy story, dull patches and dino-poop jokes.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Movie Review 2.5 stars

‘Walking with Dinosaurs 3D,’ with Charlie Rowe, Angourie Rice, Karl Urban, and the voices of John Leguizamo, Skylar Stone, Tiya Sircar, Justin Long. Directed by Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale, from a screenplay by John Collee. 86 minutes. Rated PG for creature action and peril, and mild rude humor. Several theaters.

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The BBC series “Walking with Dinosaurs” gets a kid-friendly big-screen treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes, in “Walking with Dinosaurs 3D.” Aimed squarely at that dino-crazy demographic (7-12), it pumps a few IQ points into a kid film genre sorely in need of them.

“Walking” takes care to ID each new dinosaur species introduced, including factoids about what they ate and any special skills they might have had. It’s downright educational. Just don’t tell your kids that.

Combining striking cinematography of some of the last great remote places on Earth (Alaska) with state-of-the-art dinosaur animation, “Walking” is another “Great Migration” tale — herbivores heading south at the onset of Alaskan winter, hounded by all manner of carnivores and omnivores. But thankfully, it’s not just another “Land Before Time.”

A feeble modern-day framing device packs teenage Ricky (Charlie Rowe) and his tweenage sister, Jade (Angourie Rice), off to visit their paleontologist uncle (Karl Urban) in Alaska. Jade’s down with digging for dinosaurs. But Ricky figures he already knows plenty about dinosaurs and would rather play with his phone.

Then, a raven (voiced by John Leguizamo) gets the boy’s attention and tells him the tale of the bird’s ancestor, an Alexornis, from the Cretaceous period. “Alex” is friends with a Pachyrhinosaurus, “Patchi” (Justin Long). We follow the baby Patchi out of the nest, through a few near-death experiences and into adulthood as he migrates south with his herd, tries to stick to his bigger, tougher brother Scowler (Skylar Stone) and catch the eye of the fetching Juniper (Tiya Sircar).

Leguizamo, veteran of the “Ice Age” movies, cracks a few jokes along the trek — “If you want to know where the food is, follow the fat guys.”

Alex is a wiseacre of a narrator, rolling the film backward to deflate any claims of heroism Patchi makes.

Of course there are dino-doo jokes and sibling-rivalry zingers. But the biggest laughs are sight gags of the sort you might catch in a good nature film — simple behavior, simply observed.

While the tale has dull patches that may try an adult’s patience, the animation is astonishingly real and the approach is just smart enough to keep your interest.

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