Dinosaur is a Dino-snore. Despite a budget of reportedly US$200 million andboasting some eye-popping visuals, Walt Disney’s latest animated feature isa boring, lifeless feature that will probably have very little appeal to anyone oldenough to spell the word “dinosaur”.
The film is set approximately 65 million years ago during the Cretaceousperiod, late in the game for the dinosaur species. As the film opens, wewitness the long journey of a large egg as it is picked from its mother’snest and transported to a far away island. It lands in the hands of a familyof monkey-like creatures named Lemurs, led by the patriarch Yar (OssieDavis). Despite his protests and fears of taking care of a meat-eater, Yarand his family take the foreign creature, an Iguanodon that will be known asAladar, as one of their own family members (wouldn’t Tarzan have been abetter name?).
All seems like paradise for Aladar and his Lemur family for a while, that isuntil a massive meteor show nearly wipes everyone out. They do manage toescape, but their home is destroyed. So begins the long journey to find anew home, one that has the group meeting up with a herd of migratingdinosaurs.
In true Disney fashion, there are nice ones, a romantic interestfor the film’s hero and a jerk that challenges the hero and learns the hardway that he was wrong about Aladar all along. Aside from the arrogant one(who is actually the herd’s leader), the group also encounters viciousraptors and carnotaurs (who are a variation on the Tyrannosaurus Rex) whilethey search for their new home.
All standard, all done before and done better. It doesn’t take a brainsurgeon or even a well-versed film viewer to pick out all of the otherfilms, Disney or otherwise, that Dinosaur rips off. Be it Tarzan, The LionKing or The Land Before Time, the screenplay is the worst one attached to aDisney animated feature in a long, long time (yes, even lamer thanPocahontas).
The characters are underdeveloped and clichd; the jokes areweak, the film’s moral message is delivered with all the subtlety of a trainwreck and the situations that comprise the plot are without any sort ofmotivation or energy. There are villains that lack a sense of menace, a loveinterest that never develops anything to make us believe that the twodinosaurs would fall in love with each other and a Lemur mating ritual thathad my friend and I scratching our heads, wondering exactly what part ofWalt Disney’s frozen body the filmmakers were smoking when they came up withthat sequence. Even the voice cast, which includes DB Sweeney, JuliannaMargulies and Ossie Davis, can’t do much to liven things up.
So, is there anything of worth in this marketing campaigndisguised as a summer blockbuster? Well, there are the visuals. The blendingof computer-animated dinosaurs and real-life backgrounds is quite animpressive accomplishment, and the meteor shower that nearly wipes out ourheroes in the beginning of the film is almost worth the price of admission.However, the visuals (and a strong orchestral score by James Newton Howard)can only carry a film so far, and after about thirty minutes, that stinkcloud of a plot begins to ruin even that.
Animated features from Disney Pictures, despite their massive waves ofmerchandising tie-ins and hype, usually deliver the goods when it comesright down to whether or not the films are worth all the sound and fury.Dinosaur is the first case where this is not the case. Several reviewers have suggested thathand-drawn animation may soon become extinct. I disagree. The only thing indanger of becoming extinct thanks to films like Dinosaur is qualityfilmmaking.