(US); 2000; Rated PG; 82 Minutes
D.B. Sweeney: Aladar
Julianna Margulies: Neera
Joan Plowright: Baylene
Ossie Davis: Yar
Max Casella: Zini
Alfre Woodard: Plio
Samuel E. Wright: Kron
Produced by Baker Bloodworth and Pam Marsden; Directed
by Eric Leighton and Ralph Zondag; Screenwritten
by Thom Enriquez, Walon Green, John Harrison, Robert
Nelson Jacobs, Shirley Pierce, Rhett Reese and Ralph Zondag
by DAVID KEYES
since the days in which cinema was marketing creations like
King Kong and Godzilla, Hollywood has had an unremitting
fascination with dinosaurs. There is a difficulty many filmmakers
have enjoyed confronting over the years: the delightful
challenge in creating creatures in movies who have been
dead for millions of years. Only recently, in Steven Spielberg’s
“Jurassic Park,” were they able to successfully undertake
the possibility of making these giant creatures look as
realistic as possible using technology as their tool. As
a result, we have literally watched these giant unknowns
step out of cheesy realizations of the past and into realistic
ones of the present. But funny, if you think about it, how
special effects are now able to make giant extinct animals
look lifelike, but still not ordinary human beings (a la
“Eyes Wide Shut”).
“Dinosaur” is the genesis between the best of both worlds—lush
and colorful landscapes of earth encompassing detailed digital
recreations of the complex giants that walked the terrain
millions of years before mankind. The effect is something
awe-inspiring; a brilliant marriage of realism and illusion,
Earth and technology, the past and the present. To see it
unfold is to be transported back to prehistoric times; you
marvel at the visual creatures, yet consider them real characters.
goal is not to simply encourage adults to take their children,
though. It is definitely a kid’s movie, but one that gives
the older audience something to greatly appreciate. The
film opens with a chain of disastrous events, leading us
up to the point where an egg of a mother dinosaur floats
down the river and is picked up by a Taradactle (forgive
me if I do not provide the correct terms; I’m no paleontologist).
Towards her nest spot, there is an accident and the egg
is dropped into the tree of a family of lemurs, who marvel
at this gift from the sky but grow concerned for their safety.
One curious member of the tree family opens the cracked
egg and brings out a dinosaur who, as the movie so quickly
displays, will grow up under the discipline of surrogate
the only dinosaur on this island dominated by lemurs, Aladar
(voiced by D.B. Sweeney) watches his friends enter a mating
ritual and envies their discovery of love. Before much is
said about the topic, though, a stream of meteors enter
the atmosphere a few good miles off the coast of the island.
The residents gawk at the sight of light streaming through
the sky, but then realize the potential danger when one
massive space rock crashes into the ocean and sets off a
series of tidal waves heading straight for their nesting
ground. The artists who have carefully constructed these
events have much to be commended on, for the meteor shower
looks spectacular and dangerous all at the same time.
is to come of Aladar and his family? First, they dive into
the ocean to save their lives, washing ashore of the mainland
which has been, too, affected by this natural disaster.
When they set out on foot in search of food and water, they
discover a herd of dinosaurs on route to a valley far to
the north where the plants and trees still flourish. Joining
them, Aladar and his friends find conflict with their newfound
friends; the young creature wants the herd to look out for
those who are struggling behind, but the general, a naive
blowhard with a thick nose, thinks those who can’t keep
up are not meant to survive in the first place.
might have been a masterpiece. But it falls short of that
honor, sadly, because of some light flaws. For one, why
does Disney insist that all characters are allowed vocabularies
except for the villains (which, in this case, are the Carnotaurs)?
Also, what is the purpose of incorporating Velociraptors
in the film if only meant to eat up remnants left behind
by the herd? And though we enjoy the characters, there is
no real stress on their given names; as a result, we often
refer to them as “that dinosaur with a flat head,” or “that
monkey with gold-toned hair tips.” It takes a good deal
of attention to remember that the hero is named Aladar.
none of these quibbles undermine the virtues. Impressively
detailed are the digital characters, who look and interact
like paleontology has imagined them to, and are incorporated
into the live action backgrounds with a sense of persistence.
Never once does the thought of the dinosaurs being special
effects enter our minds; we see them as real, breathing,
living creatures whose only problem in life is surviving
the harshness of the territory.
like so many of the recent products of Disney animation,
is an intelligent film that ransacks every nook and cranny
looking for something significant to add to the genre (and
the live action/digital combination alone should speak for
itself). True, the narrative lacks depth, but who can blame
it? This is a movie, after all, meant to clearly be taken
at surface value. And besides, creatures the size of dump
trucks who eat, breed, and are destined to extinction should
not be expected to labor on their uncultivated instincts,
even though their given dialogue is generally spoken with
an intellect that children probably won’t comprehend (“Just
what I need—a monkey on my back”). Because of its innovative
approach and style, this movie will find reverence in kids
and adults alike.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.