The Land Before Time (1988) (G)
Okay, I'll admit that "The Land Before Time" was a childhood favorite of mine. What child doesn't like to see family friendly dinosaurs having a merry little adventure that rarely ends up with peril and always excludes gruesome deaths with gallons of blood?
Many, many years later and re-watching "The Land Before Time" I realized how non-subtle its point is.
Littlefoot is a Long Neck (this movie isn't scientifically accurate) and he's one of the last of his kind. The land around his family is drying up so Littefoot's mother, grandmother, and grandfather decide to journey to "the Great Valley" which is an Eden-esque place with so much life that it could never be destroyed. It sounds too good to be true, but hey, they're talking dinosaurs.
On this journey, Littlefoot runs in to Cera, a Three-Horn and immediately the film makes a point: Three-Horns don't play with Long Necks (or as a more racist term "Flat Heads"). Yes indeed, this film is about racism and tolerance...but more on that later.
Then a giant quake shakes the earth and great chasms open up and all our youthful characters get separated from their parents...and in Littlefoot's case something a step further happens.
Littlefoot is left separated from the adults in his life and gets very, very lonely. He decides that he will try to make it to the Great Valley and hope that the rest of his family has done the same as well.
But there's a evil character in "The Land Before Time" the T-Rex which the characters refer to as "Sharptooth". There seems to be only one, a rouge if you will that is hell-bent on eating little dino-kids.
From the amount of times that the characters interact with Sharptooth it's startling how none of them get eaten (oops, I mean, uh SPOILER)...seriously did you think that a kid's movie was going to have its protagonists becoming hors d'oeuvres? If Wes Craven made this film maybe, otherwise, our little munchies are safe.
So Littlefoot begins his trek towards the Great Valley and tries to convince Cera to come with him; but alas, Three-Horms don't socialize with "Flat Heads"....more anti-racism sentiments here.
Littlefoot continues on his own and soon runs into more characters that form a posse: Ducky, a Big-Mouth; Petrie, a Flier; and Spike, a mute Spike Tail.
"The Land Before Time" doesn't use the correct scientific names for the dinosaurs like triceratops and brontosaurus not because it doesn't think that its children viewers can handle the words (though that might play a part of it) but because it attempts to show how the dinosaurs (were they capable of sophisticated logic) would think of themselves.
This movie is both dark and deep for a kid's movie. It keeps reminding the viewer that tolerance and teamwork is the best way. There would be no way that the characters could have survived without each other and working together. It's nice and cute and a good point but it might have been hit too hard.
After probably more than a decade since I have seen "The Land Before Time" I was struck by how good the score was—it's almost epic and would be at place in any live action movie, maybe even a David Lean picture. The film does bring you back to the time of dinosaurs and creates real peril that the characters have to face.
Under heavy scrutiny it might fall apart, but holds its own as entertaining for both kids and adults.
The animation can be jaded in certain action scenes but must be applauded in others for its artistic and realistic portrayal.
"The Land Before Time" isn't great, but it is a fine try.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones