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"The Land Before Time: The Wisdom of Friends": Not so Wise

So just how long has The Land Before Time series been with us? This film, The Wisdom of Friends, is designated number thirteen in the series, but that’s not counting the various releases the TV show has received. It’s not hard to figure that by this point the property has long since abandoned its roots. It bewilders me: Exactly how long can kids enjoy watching dinosaurs and listening to their songs? When I was young, I loved the first film, but the subsequent DTVs (which excited me before I actually saw them) left me wondering what exactly had happened to the “fun” in the stories. They were all about learning life lessons, which is kind of a downer.

In The Wisdom of Friends, Littlefoot, Cera, Spike, Petrie and Ducky all return to help the yellow-bellied Beipiaosauruses, Loofah and Doofah, reach the rest of their tribe and journey to the land of Berry Valley. Through their journeys, the young dinosaurs try to teach the yellow bellies the “Wisdoms”, a set of rules that Littlefoot was taught by his grandmother. In the end Littlefoot realizes that they have their own set of “wisdoms” and that the dinosaurs, while goofy and sometimes idiotic, didn’t really need his help after all. He did, however, need theirs, in learning some new life lessons of his own.

Perhaps the biggest issue I had with the film, aside from the fact I’m an adult and have no business watching this cartoon, is that the “life lesSons” of the film were never really explained. The only one we ever hear about is to “stay in a group”, but later on in the film we get a curious message from the yellow bellies, who tell Littlefoot to “just feel it”, which equates to “do what feels right”, which I’m pretty sure is what leads to teen pregnancy.

Now this contradicts what the stories have been telling us throughout, and in the end we learn that the yellow bellies are right after all, so basically the message of the story is to listen to what your parents tell you, pass it on to others, have those others tell you something different, so you can ignore your parents’ wishes, and then everything turns out all right in the end anyway. I don’t know about you, but if I had any kids this isn’t exactly the lesson I’d want to teach them.

On top of the awkward life lessons, there a lot of curious “what the hell” moments throughout the film. Littlefoot’s need to help these new dinosaurs is spawned by an experience he has with his grandmother at the beginning of the film, where he climbs out onto a fallen tree to get leaves to eat. An earthquake rattles the ground around him, and Littlefoot nearly falls to his death but is saved by his grandmother who then, in turn, nearly falls to her death. He has a couple nightmares about at the beginning of the film, but it’s hardly a reason for him to be setting out with his friends to help strangers. After all of this, Littlefoot still sees fit to leave his grandmother without telling her, as do the rest of his friends, who leave without telling their parents where they’re going. Did they think they’d object? I mean, at least one of them could’ve gone along with them. And when the parents finally become worried enough to send out a search party, they all set out on foot—even the pterodactyl.

The voice acting and animation in the film is fine, although why it wasn’t done in widescreen I don’t know. Cuba Gooding Jr. continues his career decline by voicing one of the yellow bellies, as does Sandra Oh (of Grey’s Anatomy fame). I really wonder why anyone would lend their talent to a series that has gone for too long—high numbers are more often inversely correlated with quality.

The story is really just a giant mess. It’s noble effort, telling children to stay in groups, but the conflicting messages of “do what feels right” and not telling your parents where you’re going combined with the happy ending paint a very confusing portrait of what life should be like. If this is what parents are letting teach their children the rights and wrongs of the world, then they should really be looking elsewhere. Skip It.

Presented in a white amaray DVD case (about the only interesting thing about this DVD), The Wisdom of Friends includes an embossed slipcover and a coupon for $3.00 if you buy another title with this DVD (the new Mr. Bean movie, if you’re curious). Inside is another coupon for another Land Before DVD, as well as Curious George and Barbie as The Island Princess. Menus are easy on the eyes and simple to navigate.

Video and audio on this release is fine. Why there’s 5.1 audio and only 4:3 video, I don’t know. I saw no interlacing or ghosting on the video transfer. Special features include a bonus TV episode (“The Hidden Canyon”) which was actually more entertaining than the film itself. Two games, “Yellow Belly Challenge” and “Yellow Bellies on the Loose!” are included, as well as sing-a-longs for two of the movie’s three songs.

Overall, I recommend neither the film nor this DVD release. The DVD quality is fine as far as these things go, but the film is just such a confusing mix of morals and really not worth your money or your children’s time. Take some of my own “wisdom” and Skip this DVD.

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