U – 72mins – 1994
ESCHEWING THE MYSTERIOUS BEYOND
“If this was a game I’d never want to play again.”
In the aftermath of the Jurassic Park dino-boom, and six years after the little foot with the big heart stomped to a brontosaurus-sized box office bow, the loveable long neck and his assorted leaf-licking playmates herded back to the screen for a second profound and plucky prehistoric romp.
The Land Before Time director Don Bluth, executive producers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and composer James Horner all stayed away from this cinema-skipping Great Valley Adventure (as did all but one of the voice cast), but some nauseatingly twee musical numbers attempt to inject some buoyancy into the competent-but-noticeably-flatter animation.
And yet, once you have lowered your expectations and conceded this is a cheaper affair in a lower league than the iconic original (the kidified modification of the Universal logo keys you in to this mind-set from the off), there are still the fossils of an endearing story to be unearthed beneath the superficial chaff.
Apatosaurus Littlefoot (Scott McAfee) and his friends all retain their distinctive and charming personalities as they learn that as hard as it is to be little, “acting grown up is hard. It is, it is.” Chasing down two egg-napping raptor-like foes (one of whom sounds a lot like Tim Curry), the brave band decide to hand-rear the rescued hatchling themselves – until it transpires to be a sharptooth whose parents are desperate to track it down!
There are astute allusions to peer pressure, and carry-overs from The Land Before Time of prejudice against other species (“a sharptooth can never be one of us!”), while the sundry life lessons converge in a climatic solution which overcomes the gang’s adversities and saves the day – hooray for teamwork!
In a film which bestows the virtues of enjoying your youth and not growing up too soon it seems somewhat miserly and incongruous for me to be too hard on this colourful and virtuous little scamp, which will undoubtedly delight the undemanding diddy-demographic it is aimed at.