Jake Emory (Jordan Dulieu) is a 7th grader at Bridgetown Junior High. He’s having some problems recently. His father died two years ago and he hasn’t come to terms with his death. His older brother Mike (Harrison Saunders) is also having problems accepting the loss so he’s been acting out by painting graffiti all over town. This mischief gets him noticed by the local Sheriff (Scott Irwin) who’s also interested in Jake and Mike’s mom Jennifer (Beth Champion). One day while Jake and his nerdy friends (including his new lab partner Abbey [Annabel Wolfe]) are exploring the local woods searching for evidence of UFOs, they come across some unusual blue goop. The next day, Abbie brings Jake some of the substance and tells him to perform tests on it for their lab project. A confrontation with Mike causes some chemicals to spill on the goop. The next morning Jake hears a strange sound emanating from his room and is shocked to find a small spiky blue dinosaur-like lizard looking at him. Jake calls the beast Magnus (after several elements from the Periodic Table) and proceeds to train him. But Magnus begins to grow every day and it isn’t long before Jake and his friends realize that Magnus will soon catch the attention of nasty army Colonel Roderick (Rowland Holmes) who’s been bullying everyone in town while searching for unusual animals.
“My Pet Dinosaur” is a new film from Australian writer/director Matt Drummond and it’s the second dinosaur film that he’s directed (“Dinosaur Island”  being the other). This movie seems like an attempt to try and closely emulate the cinematic stylings of Steven Spielberg’s greatest hit (it also seems to crib some elements from “Stranger Things” ). Using the skeletal structure of that 1982 hit, Drummond fills his flick with many similar characters and situations. You’ve got the single mom struggling to keep her family together. You’ve got the young boy who can’t get over his father’s death. You’ve also got a caring adult who wants to befriend the single mom’s kids and you’ve got a cuddly creature who through no fault of its own keeps getting into trouble.
There’s nothing wrong with using these situations and characters, however, the film doesn’t add anything to these overused situations. Even worse, some of the acting by the young cast isn’t very good which makes it more difficult to root and care for them while they are on their adventures. The film is further let down by the performance of the main villain Colonel Roderick (who unfathomably wears Sergeant First Class Stripes on his uniform shirt collars throughout the film). Holmes projects very little presence and his performance is bland and almost whiny when it should be powerful and gleefully evil.
Writer/director Drummond should be given credit for creating some convincing dino CGI. Magnus is a great looking creation and it seems that Drummond wanted to combine different styles of dinosaurs in order to get a unique look. He succeeds; however, the problem with Magnus is that he doesn’t act like a dinosaur. It’s only later in the movie when he gets much larger that Drummond adds in some more authentic dino behavior.
“My Pet Dinosaur” is a sweet and gentle film. And I believe that young children will really enjoy it. The problem with the movie is that it’s too unsophisticated for audiences over the age of 10. I really wish that it had a better and more defined script and higher quality acting so it could have reached down a little farther and found my inner child.
For more information on “My Pet Dinosaur”, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/mypetdinosaurmovie
To read an interview with writer/director Matt Drummond, please go here: https://geeksdownunder.com.au/2017/04/19/what-went-into-making-magnus-from-my-pet-dinosaur-director-matt-drummond-explains