Adventures In Dinosaur City

Director: Brett Thompson  
Omri Katz, Shawn Hoffman, Tiffanie Poston

I think that one thing that most people have in common is that they like to consider themselves pretty smart individuals. The obvious reason for that is that in this world that we live in, any sign of stupidity is not only frowned upon and mocked, it can show weakness. And when one shows any sign of weakness, it can invite some kind of attack by people who are hostile or not very sympathetic in nature. I've seen stupidity attacked many times while growing up, and even today among people who happen to share the adult age group that I'm in. So you can be sure that not only do I consider myself smart, on a regular basis I do things that maintain and strengthen my intelligence. However, at the same time I have to admit that I am not perfect. Despite all my efforts to think smart and do smart things, I sometimes stumble. And when I stumble, I often think to myself, "How could you do/say something so stupid?" And when I think something along those lines, I often think way back into my fast when I was less mature and not as intelligent as I am today. I think back to all the dumb stuff I thought and believed in as a child so that in comparison I don't appear as dumb and foolish as someone who is an adult. There are things I thought of or were interested in as a child that today seem so dumb I wonder what I was thinking at the time. For example, when I was about six years old, I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be someone who painted those yellow divider lines in the middle of roads. I can't remember why at the time I thought that would be a dream job to have, but I do know today that I was sometimes a pretty stupid kid growing up all those years ago.

However, at the same time I realize that in several aspects I was a kid who was to be admired and respected. Even at a young age, I was a non-conformist and more often that not I didn't follow the pack when it came to things that interested kids. I never watched shows like Fantasy Island or Three's Company while growing up, despite all the kids in my classes being greatly interested in them. However, there were two great interests among all the kids in my classes that were much greater than mere television shows, interests that I am proud to say I never was obsessed with. The first interest was with anything connected to the Star Wars movies. Star Wars, Star Wars, and Star Wars - my peers were just nuts about Star Wars. But I wasn't - I didn't bother to watch them until I was almost a teenager, and while I did like the movies upon seeing them, I didn't think they were worth that much of a fuss. The second great interest that the other kids at school had was dinosaurs. Now, I admit that as a kid I did see why people might be interested in dinosaurs. Many dinosaurs were much bigger than humans, some were fierce flesh eaters, and there was still enough that was unknown about them (like what colors their skin were) that could make people use their imagination to fill in the blank spaces. But the other kids were not just interested in dinosaurs - they were nuts about dinosaurs. They would draw pictures about dinosaurs, they would write stories that would involve dinosaurs, and they would read books and do reports about dinosaurs.

But my interest in dinosaurs was never any more than casual, even today in my middle age. Sometimes I wonder if my now grown up peers today look back and wonder why they were so fixated with dinosaurs. If they do, I would really want to know their reasons why. With my Adventures In Dinosaur Citycuriosity about the subject of child obsession with dinosaurs, you may understand why I decided to watch the movie Adventures In Dinosaur City. The movie involves dinosaurs, of course, but it has an extra ingredient that makes the movie more appealing to the young - child characters that interact with dinosaurs. Though not ordinary dinosaurs, as you can see from the poster art I have placed in this paragraph.  In fact, probably a lot of you readers can guess what the movie plot and quality is like from that poster art alone. But if not, here's the video box description of the movie, the writing style of which should also give you a clue about what the movie is like: "Pull up a rock and get ready to roll on an adventure that only comes around once in a million years! The evolutionary escapade beings when a trio of ultra-modern teens get accidentally zapped into the prehistoric stomping grounds of some far-our dinosaurs... and find themselves in a stone age [sic] fantasy that's far from extinct. Joining forces with a crime fighting tyrannosaurus named Rex, his right-claw reptile, Tops, and a cuddly cut-up named Forry, they embark on a fossil-fueled mission to retrieve a stolen power cell and save Saur City from melting down into one, big jurassic [sic] jacuzzi [sic]. It's a race against the sundial in which they're braving a tar pit load of craters, creatures and cro-magnon [sic] creeps to save this lost world and get back to their own. But they're having so much fun doing it, they've forgotten to be afraid! So dig in for a wooly mammoth of an adventure that's soaring with surprises, loaded with laughs and rocking with dino-mite rap theme that's out of this era!"

As you no doubt concluded from that above plot description, Adventures In Dinosaur City is a movie aimed strictly at the kiddie audience. But despite the movie involving dinosaurs and people who are not adults yet, I think that the kiddie audience will have a hard time getting involved. Let me start first by taking a look at the human characters in the movie. I think it was a mistake to make the youthful protagonists teenagers instead of pre-teens. It doesn't seem right seeing these more mature characters making a fuss over dinosaurs as well as the dinosaur-themed television show they eventually get zapped into eventually. Actually, "eventually" is the wrong word to use, because we are barely introduced to these youths before they are zapped into the dinosaur world. (It happens around the thirteen minute mark of the movie.) As a result, we don't really see how suddenly being in such an alien world changes them. Maybe that's why their reaction to suddenly being in such an alien world is surprisingly calm - they don't cry or panic, or show any great emotion from being torn from their world and their loved ones. Instead, their perspective seems more like this is a typical thing for them, and that encountering grotesque bad guys who want to destroy them as well as potential natural disasters threatening to destroy their world are typical things, things that are easy to wrestle down and conquer. Even worse are their interactions with each other - there's no heart, no sense that they think strongly about their friendships that might possibly move on to something more. At one point, Mick (Shawn Hoffman) and Jamie (Tiffanie Poston) suddenly exchange a kiss, a kiss that comes out of the blue with no feeling that romantic feelings had been building between the two. To make matters worse, after this kiss the movie makes absolutely no further effort to examine this relationship. The rest of the movie plays like the kiss never happened.

The icing on the cake for these youthful protagonists is the fact that their performances leave a great deal to be desired. Looking up the acting careers of Hoffman and Poston (as well as their co-star Omri Katz of Eerie, Indiana fame), it didn't come as no surprise that my research revealed that each of them didn't exactly have much of an acting career after this movie. As for the adult humans in the movie, their performances, whether they play scientists or cavemen, are equally goofy in a way that's supposed to tickle kids but just comes across as plain dumb. But I am sure that kids reading this review are probably not concerned with the human characters, and are wanting to know what the dinosaurs are like. Well kids, I hate to break it to you, but you are going to be sorely let down. Although these dinosaurs have the ability to talk, they are extremely uninteresting characters. One reason is that for the most part they are poorly constructed. It's shown early on that the teenagers are obsessed with the dinosaur TV show they are zapped into, and that from this they know all about the characters of Rex and Tops. But we in the audience don't actually get to see Rex and Tops in action in the limited footage of the TV show that's seen. They remain very unclear characters until the three teens get to actually meet them. And once we do get to meet them, it soon becomes clear that very little was done by the screenwriters to make them something special. Imagine the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with even less individualism, once in a while slapping their paws with each other while exclaiming, "Gimme claw!", and you'll have a good idea of just how utterly unoriginal and lacking in personality these dinosaur characters are.

Maybe there are a few kids out there who won't mind how brain dead these dinosaurs are. But I'll bet they'll still view these creatures with a good amount of disappointment for the next reason these dinosaurs don't work, and that's with the special effects. The dinosaurs are portrayed for the most part by humans wearing rubber suits - emphasis on the "rubber". They look extremely tacky, and it's made worse by the fact when these dinosaurs talk, their mouths hardly move - if there's any movement at all. Some other dinosaurs are portrayed by puppets, and it's extremely obvious throughout that their puppeteers are just around the corners or under the ledges of the sets these creations are set upon. While I'm speaking of the sets, I'd like to add that they look even worse than the dinosaur creations. It looks like cardboard and papier-mâché were the main building ingredients. It looks even worse than you can imagine, because while most of the movie is supposed to be taking place outside, the way these scenes are lit and shot it's all very obviously taking place on a soundstage. Although director Brett Thompson might be excused for many of these shortcomings because the budget for this movie was obviously so low, he does have to accept a good deal of blame all the same. The whole movie is directed with a surprising amount of restraint, with no sense of awe, wonder, or just plain excitement by either Thompson or any of the characters in the movie. If nobody connected to this movie seems to be having any kind of fun, why should we in the audience feel this way? Still, the movie might have a use for you if you have kids who are driving you nuts with their obsession with dinosaurs. I guarantee you that if you make them watch this movie, their enthusiasm for the subject will greatly die down, at least for a little while.

(Posted September 22, 2014)

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See also: King Kung Fu, Star Kid, Theodore Rex