"Dinosaur" Review
© 2000 Fontaine L.

Don't be fooled by Disney's surprisingly un-sappy trailer for "Dinosaur," a Disney animation feature that seems poised to be dramatically different from the fairy tales of "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid" and other stock Disney products. I mean, the film is obviously animated, but there seemed to be nothing even remotely cartoonish about the movie. The landscape looked real. You felt like you could reach out and feel the rough dinosaurs' skin. There weren't any annoying "Hakuna Matata" and "Go the Distance" tunes to sing along to. No furry sidekicks, no cackling villain. Instead we were given a brief, eye-popping glimpse into supposed Cretaceous life, and primates aside, you could've easily mistaken this for some IMAX documentary feature. The background music was ominous. We saw a Texas-sized meteor impact the planet, saw the dinosaurs running for life. The assumption automatically being made was that Disney was--gasp--trying to innovate animation and at the same time present a radically different summer blockbuster feature.

I should've known; I mean, c'mon, "the love monkey"?! Dinosaurs don't talk. Primates don't talk.

So, apparently, this is the big Disney 2000 movie that everyone's waiting for (I will gladly be proven wrong). Complete with uplifting, didactic dialogue, a connect-the-dots plotline, and characters that seem to surface in every single cookiecutter Disney film (not that I don't love every single one of them). There's the hero--with his heroic voice supplied by D.B. Sweeney-- who parallels Hercules, Simba, etc. Only this time, it's a dinosaur. And of course, this dinosaur who starts out as a carefree young dinosaur undergoes predictable trials and tribulations, stands up to his challenges, and wins the affection of a young dinosaur lady. There are the cute, celebrity- voiced sidekicks, including the aforementioned love monkey (think Chris Tucker with yellow fur), a pair of wisecracking old maid dinosaurs. There's the stubborn (misunderstood?) villain; and of course we can thank Steven Spielberg for that pair of terrifying T-Rexes. A dinosaur movie wouldn't be complete without those things.

In other words, don't let the trailers convince you that this film has a refreshingly pessimistic/realistic angle to it (come to think of it . . . they wouldn't dare). I suppose I was being unrealistic in assuming the film would tackle the whole extinction issue. Heh, that would entail an unhappy ending wouldn't it? Thankfully one of the main characters acknowledges at the end that it isn't the end of the story, and they don't know what the future has in store. God forbid our kids think that the dinos SURVIVED the meteor ordeal (so are we to assume, then, that there was one small-scale impact that wiped out about 90% of the dinosaur population and that--through an extremely abbreviated Darwinian process--the fittest survived and created a new dinosaur population?) I suppose these would all be points to ponder, problems that come with trying to depict this historical era.

The stale characters and the all-too-predictable plot (that teachers youngsters the virtues of compassion, unity, friendship, blah blah blah)--even more so than previous Disney films--distracts from the film's saving grace: the animation. Words cannot do the animation's intricacy, scope, and elegance justice, so I will save a sentence or two and recommend that you go see for yourself. It is a feat that should be properly acknowledged, as anyone who has seen the film's preview can attest to. Yes, the plot will bore you to tears, but there's enough graphics bravado and cutesy Disney movie moments to keep your eyes glued to the screen. Go see the movie, if just for the animation. And hey, it'll teach your kids a thing or two about compassion, unity, friendship . . . And well, you know.

Rating: B (First viewing, 5/27/00)