Movie Review By Casey McCabe
"T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous" combines the wonder of Spielberg, the awe inspiring technology of IMAX 3-D and the soul of a high school librarian. It turns out this combination creates a film that is considerably less than the sum of its parts. T-Rex even squanders much of its abbreviated 50 minute running time. But as a dinosaur loving kid from way back in the early Lyndon Johnson epoch, I must grant the film its few wonderfully experiential moments.
Now you may think people would flock to a movie like "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous" because they'd like to see dinosaurs come to life in incredibly realistic 3D. And I'm sure they will. But be warned, it's a trick to force you to learn something. Hence, the soul of the high school librarian.
T-Rex is actually the story of fictional paleontologist Donald Hayden, played by Peter Horton, and his dinosaur worshipping daughter Ally, played by Liz Stauber. Dr. Hayden spends most of his time in the field, played by the Canadian badlands, while Ally cool her heels back at the paleontology museum, pining for the day she can join her father in serious research. Both are looking for fossil links that will shed light on the parenting behavior of these giant extinct lizards. In the process we will learn about the pioneering real-life paleontologists who inspired them. Father and daughter also have what scientists now call "issues" concerning their own somewhat estranged relationship, which involves cryptic references to a mother and wife who is never seen.
And we get to see all this in stunningly realistic big screen 3D.
It turns out the technology does have a major affect on the otherwise mundane. Because it immerses you in the environment, I often felt like I was invading the character's personal space and wasn't sure if I was obliged to brush that piece of lint of Peter Horton's sweater. But indeed when a fossil digger hammers a rock, you flinch to avoid the flying chips. When the camera moves down a tree lined street, you duck under the branches. And when you wonder how much longer the film can go on without showing dinosaurs, T-Rex finally relents and goes back to the Cretaceous. The enabling plot device, in which Ally essentially snorts some 65 million year old dust and goes on a series of hallucinatory trips, makes you wonder why they even bothered with a plot in the first place.
My guess? The brief but amazing end sequence, imagining the death of a Tyrannosaurus Rex from a deep impact meteorite shower, probably costs an awful lot more than genial After School Special that preceded it.
IMAX claims that T-Rex is its biggest, most elaborate production ever, and marks the Company's commitment to move from the traditional documentary arena to adventure and drama feature films. I can assure you that you have never seen a young woman's quest for her father's acceptance in such groundbreaking size and detail. But if you're going to T-Rex to see dinosaurs, those 50 minutes might feel like an eon.
© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 10/01
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