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When Jake and his schoolfriends head into the forest looking for aliens, they instead stumble upon a puddle of primordial goo. After accidentally mixing it up with his science project chemistry set and a protein shake, Jake finds himself in possession of a rapidly-evolving prehistoric Pokémon. As more dinosaurs pop up across the town, and shady government agents start to take an interest, it becomes clear that Jake isn’t the only one with something to hide.
My Pet Dinosaur is a live-action family adventure from dinosaur-obsessed writer, director and visual effects artist Matt Drummond, whose previous credits include Dinosaur Island, Prehistoric Predators, and Death of the Megabeasts.
Compared to Disney blockbusters like Pete’s Dragon and The BFG, this low-budget effort will come up short. But for younger audiences that can see past the amateurish acting and the kind of CGI one would expect from a Channel 5 TV movie, My Pet Dinosaur has plenty of plucky charm.
Titular creature Magnus is cute and colourful, while retaining some semblance of tactile reality, and his movements are well captured. Unfortunately, the human actors around him aren’t animated quite so adequately, with poor performances of derivative characters across the board.
Drummond does offer more than a nod to Spielberg with his film, as dinosaurs mix with all the tropes of those 80’s adventures – kids riding around on their bikes, a sinister military presence, and some father figure issues. But it’s all been updated for 21st century kids, as the friends group-chat over Skype and live-stream the climactic dino-destruction to millions of online viewers.
The filmmaker clearly has an infectious passion for his material, and a knack for animation and visual effects artistry, but with weaknesses in writing and direction, it’s difficult to see My Pet Dinosaur escaping its low-budget limitations and finding an adoring audience.