Making the Grades
The Land Before Time series is a testament to the viability of good quality children's movies. The first three titles (the original movie followed by two direct to video releases) showed excellent examples of working together to solve problems. The two video releases were especially tame and provided worthwhile -- albeit predictable -- stories that would interest very young children without resorting to typical violent techniques. It's disappointing that the fourth edition, with its Saturday morning style of violence, does not live up to past performances.
The story starts with Littlefoot's grandfather being ill. The only cure is a golden flower that is located outside of the Great Valley. None of the adults want to make the dangerous journey, putting Littlefoot and his friends in the usual position of making the trek by themselves. Of course, no trip is complete without obstacles. In this case a weak bird and a blind crocodile work together to find each other food, and the micro-tiny dinos are attractive appetizers. But while the crocodile and bird are arguing with each other, the rest of the cast are running for their lives in a seemingly endless series of confrontations with a whole lot of screaming thrown in from the female characters.
Of course the violence portrayed appears benign to adults and older children, but it provides no value to the story. With the especially young audience most likely watching these movies, parents must still be cautious. I also dislike the overused idea that only children can solve a crisis. The apathetic parents in this movie underscore a child's sense of helplessness in the real world. If you show this movie to your children, ask them for ideas of how Littlefoot could have handled his problem. For instance, were there any other adults that could have been asked to assist in the journey?
The narrator practically advertises the next movie at the end of the story, but time will tell if the drop in quality will cause green money to stop growing in the valley, making Littlefoot and his friends extinct.