My Pet Dinosaur
Jordan Dulieu, Annabel Wolfe, Harrison Saunders, Scott Irwin, Beth Champion, David Roberts
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Aussie shot Spielbergian adventure will amuse the kids, but adults will find it under-budgeted and highly derivative
Wearing its influences on its sleeve, it’s clear filmmaker Matt Drummond was a child of the ‘80s. Though My Pet Dinosaur certainly doesn’t abide by the rule that ‘originality is the art of concealing your sources’, it unabashedly revels in mimicking the tone and style of many ‘80s classics like Explorers, E.T and Goonies with more than a little inspiration from Brad Bird’s animated masterpiece The Iron Giant.
Set in a small US town afflicted by the appearance of tiny dinosaurs that are the result of covert military experiments from a local army base, young Jake (Jordan Dulieu) and his friend Abbey (Annabel Wolfe) become surrogate parents to a quick-growing dinosaur they dub ‘Magnus’. Together with local Deputy Alan (Scott Irwin), the group of BMX riding friends must thwart evil Army Colonel Roderick (Rowland Holmes) and his rather trigger happy troops, to save Magnus from capture.
What becomes a real issue over the film’s running time is that mimicking a ‘Spielbergian’ style and tone is hard enough (such as JJ Abrams’ Super 8 or Netflix’s Stranger Things) when you’re making the film in the US, however doing it with relatively unknown Australian kids who struggle with American accents and shooting in the Central Tablelands of NSW, makes it doubly hard to sell the illusion.
Most low budget genre films utilise the element of freshness, to tip the budget limitation scales in their favour but to ape such a specific and well known style requires note perfect execution. So, while My Pet Dinosaur’s ambitions aren’t fully realised, on a kid’s entertainment level, it’ll more than provide an afternoon’s escapist adventure.