Judge Dawn Hunt doesn’t want to go back in time unless it involves Huey Lewis and the News.

Back to the Jurassic came out in 2012 but was known as Dino Time. Now repackaged under the name Back to the Jurassic it’s the story of Ernie (Pamela Adlon, The Pirate Fairy), a rule breaking tween who’s obsessed with dinosaurs. After his desire to see the museum’s new dinosaur exhibit before it’s open to the public results in shenanigans like destruction of public property it’s no surprise when Ernie is grounded. However, being the rule breaker he is means he’s sneaking out of the house and over to his best friend and partner in crime’s dwelling before much time has passed at all. Of course Max (Yuri Lowenthal, Young Justice: Invasion) is grounded as well but that doesn’t stop the duo from having fun. And in this case fun means exploring the time machine Max’s inventor father (Fred Tatasciore, JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time) has been working on for the past four years. What neither Ernie nor Max realize is that Ernie’s little sister Julia (Tara Strong, Beware the Batman) has followed him in order to bust him in the act of having snuck out of the house in hopes that he will get in even more trouble. When Julia reveals she is the reason why the alarm went off at the museum a fight breaks out which results in the time machine getting accidentally turned on, with the kids being sent back to the Cretaceous period.

While Ernie is beside himself with excitement Max and Julia just want to go home, especially when they arrive in the Cretaceous period only to discover they landed in a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s nest and that dinosaur, Tyra (Melanie Griffith, Mulholland Falls), believes they are her newly-hatched babies. What Max and Julia don’t know is that Ernie holds the key to them returning home–literally. The power key fell out of the time machine during the journey and Ernie found and pocketed it. Ernie promises they will look for the power key but in the meantime they surely can do at least a little exploring, especially since the T-Rex is clearly no threat to them but instead their protector. And she’s not the only one either, as her adopted son Orphan aka Dodger (Rob Schneider, Grown-Ups) is over the moon at the prospect of finally having younger siblings to whom he can teach everything he knows. But lest you think this is a completely whitewashed version of the Cretaceous period and the many many dangerous elements inherent, especially for young children, we meet three evil birds who are the henchmen for the real villains of the piece the Sarcos Brothers (William and Stephen Baldwin, The Stranger Within and Harpies). The Sarcos Brothers want to rule the Upper Valley instead of the Lower Valley they currently live in. The trouble with the Lower Valley? All the earthquakes, rising temperatures, lava, and tar pits. But of course someone or rather something stands in their way and that’s Tyra, who offers protection to all of the dinosaurs who live in the Upper Valley. When the three birds learn about the kids’ arrival the Sarcos Brothers know they have finally found the leverage they need to lure Tyra into a trap which will result in her death. Meanwhile back in the future Ernie and Julia’s mom (Jane Lynch, Glee) and Max’s dad learn about the kids’ disappearance. It’s kind of hard not to because when the time machine vanished it swapped places with the real egg in Tyra’s nest. And when that egg hatches? A baby T-Rex escapes Max’s house and runs amok on the streets of Terra Dino, the kids’ home town. Now their parents need to build a new time machine, get it to work, and wrangle a baby dinosaur all without knowing whether or not the kids are safe which as it turns out, they aren’t. But fear not, happy endings abound.

Speaking of being not safe this is rated PG and there are definite moments of violence. There isn’t any blood however characters slap other characters and there is fighting and what I’ll call a Mufasa-type moment. So very young viewers may need some explanations as to what’s happening and might become upset by some of what they see. It’s something you’ll want to watch with young kids for the first viewing so you can help navigate any waters they find confusing or upsetting, however aside from those issues which I freely admit are a case-by-case basis there really isn’t much to object to here. Back to the Jurassic makes a point of flaunting its Dove seal of approval as a family-friendly film if that helps you decide whether or not you can just let your kids watch it without you needing to be there.

The one thing that bothers me is the breaking of the fourth wall. Ernie narrates directly to the camera at several points in the movie and that’s just one of my own pet peeves I don’t like to see in films. Something like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the exception not the rule, and it’s clear Ernie is speaking to the younger members of the audience rather than just retelling the action on screen.

Overall Back to the Jurassic earns points for the lovely animation and the inclusion of dinosaurs is always awesome in a film so that’s a plus here as well. My only concerns are that you know whether or not your kid can handle PG cartoons and that pesky fourth wall narration.

The animation is really pretty to look at with nice detailing and texturing. It’s clear care and dedication went into making sure the animation holds the viewer’s attention and in that aspect it definitely succeeds. The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is free of technical distractions and the bright colors, especially Tyra’s pink skin, will hold kids’ attention. The audio is a 5.1 Surround Sound track and it does a good job. There are plenty of elements to balance–Foley, dialogue, music, ambient noise–and the track handles them well and without the viewer needing to adjust their volume.

The lone special feature is a trailer for the film.

THE VERDICT

Back to the Jurassic is a harmless adventure tale boasting nice animation and celebrity voices. If your kids are into dinosaurs this might make the cut. Not guilty.

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