Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone Review

Sounds like a job for Doug McClure…

In hastily doing some research for this review, which, being honest, extended as far as looking it up on Wikipedia, it appears that Dinotopia is a fictional utopia in which people and dinosaurs live happily together. It was created by James Gurney, who wrote a series of books on Dinotopia, which have since been adapted for television. But as Siegfried and Roy discovered, even the very best trained tiger can still turn wild tiger with very little notice so I suspect that dinosaurs, no matter that they’re very nice dinosaurs, could turn into terrible lizards should pangs of hunger overcome what little feelings of benevolence they might have. Such an idyll seems as attractive as a package holiday to a terrorist training came. That might be exciting at first, particularly if guns were part and parcel of the deal, but the endless running away from certain death would soon prove tiresome.

Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone doesn’t begin in Dinotopia. Instead, it opens in some everyday city with twelve-year-old Kex Bradley running away from the orphanage in which he lives and with skateboard and iPod in hand heads off to see the world. Unfortunately, the boat that he stows away on encounters a storm and rather than take his chances with the rest of the crew, none of whom seem particularly hopeful about their chances of survival, Kex hops into a lifeboat and takes to the sea alone. The next morning, he finds himself washed up on an island, with the voice of a young girl urging him to wake up. Only when this girl pokes her nose out between the leaves of the bush that she’s hiding behind does Kex see that it’s not a girl at all but a dinosaur named 26. This dinosaur introduces Kex to all the delights of Dinotopia but in the caves underneath the island, the evil Ogthar (Malcolm McDowell) is being released from his prison and should the Ruby Sunstone fall into his possession, Dinotopia itself could be destroyed.

For all that it’s billed as an island utopia, there are still some potentially nasty places on Dinotopia. Not only is there the threat of what Ogthar might do to the place but there’s a very bleak part of the island that is given over almost completely to Tyrannosaurus Rexes. Given their size, I can only assume that that’s rather a large part of Dinotopia, with Stinktooth (Michael Clarke Duncan) warning Kex, 26, Mara (Tara Strong) and a very annoying blue dinosaur that they pick up on their way that they’d be better staying out of T Rex territory. But rather than seeing, Jurassic Park or Valley of the Gwangi-style, T Rexes stomping around Dinotopia and eating whoever lives there, our one terrible lizard is revealed to be rather a soft-hearted creature. His meanness and his roaring only came about as the result of something stuck in his gum. Given the size of a T Rex, what is said to be a splinter is more like a spear but 26, showing a daring that would be uncommon even amongst superheroes, yanks it out to leave us a friendlier, more contented giant lizard.

This lack of nastiness extends even to the villain of Quest for the Ruby Sunstone. Ogthar ought to be horrible indeed – Malcolm McDowell has a nice line in megalomaniacs – but as with most children’s films, his mean streak is tempered by two very incompetent assistants. Ogthar’s plot to steal dinosaur eggs is made more complicated than it ought to be by these helpers, who manage to lose a wheelbarrow full of giant eggs as anyone else might mislay a pen. And so it goes on, even to the two giant robotic dinosaurs that Ogthar has in his underground lair stomping about Dinotopia under the control of Kex and Mara, who prove naturals at steering them. Such is the way with heroes. While it’s not particularly original and it may not be the most exciting of films, it’s entertaining enough for younger children, with its broad appeal ensuring that girls will enjoy the presence of 26 and Mara and boys Kex. Spazz – at least I think it’s Spazz – won’t be loved by anyone and in spite of doing his very best to scupper the movie, it just about survives.

Anamorphically presented in 1.78:1 and animated in a fairly cheap fashion, presumably by the same kind of company that churns out thousands of hours of cartoons for television each year, Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone just about looks the part. It’s colourful enough to satisfy its audience and while the film doesn’t demand the DVD does very much by way of detail, it doesn’t let down the feature. Similarly, the DD2.0 soundtrack carries the action well but it’s no better than what you might hear from a television broadcast. Finally, there are no extras.

Eamonn McCusker

Updated: Apr 14, 2009

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