Theodore Rex

Director: Jonathan Betuel                  
Whoopi Goldberg, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Bud Cort

This $35 million movie made the news in 1996 when the distributor (New Line) announced that after test screenings, they were going to send it directly to video - making it the most expensive direct-to-video ever. I decided to review it because it's been more than two years since that news, and the movie has been pretty much forgotten. After watching this movie, I have to say that New Line made the right decision regarding its release. Though I also wonder why they bothered to pick up the distribution rights in the first place! Actually, most of the blame then goes on the production company that conceived and made Theodore Rex, because the movie is a complete and utter waste of 91 minutes.

This is one bad movie. I'm not just talking about a typical run-of-the-mill bad movie. It is bad. Unbelievably bad. Painfully bad. Bad in ways you never thought a movie could be bad in. There is nothing worthwhile in the movie, not even something like a good performance, funny one-liners, or impressive special effects. I told a Whoopi Goldberg fan about this movie (and warned her how horrible I heard the movie was), and she told me after renting it that she had to stop the movie after 30 minutes. How bad is this movie? If Joel Schumacher had been assigned to direct, used the special effects team of his Batman movies, but given a third of the budget, he would have come up with a version of Theodore Rex that would look exactly as this version looks now.

The movie starts with an opening crawl, saying something like: "At midnight tomorrow, billionaire Elizar Kane will launch the New Eden missile for a new ice age. When mankind is extinct, he'll reanimate the animal pairs he's collected. Two workers escaped from the New Eden compound," and then the movie starts. There's nothing in that crawl that we don't learn later in the movie, so why is it there? Did the director want to spoil the movie for us, or did he think the finished product made no sense? Any which way, it's an awful start to a movie. We soon get our first look at cop Coltraine (Goldberg), who's introduced in the stereotypical introduction scene of showing the cop working to bust a gang of criminals. Whoopi in this scene (and the rest of the movie) acts like she doesn't want to be there. In fact, she didn't; before filming started, she (wisely) tried to get out of the movie a la Kim Bassinger, but the producers threatened a Boxing Helena-like lawsuit. Stuck in the movie, she decided to get revenge by deciding to give an unenergetic and downright awful performance. She succeeded all too well, though not even a good performance would have saved anything here.

Afterwards, it becomes evident that we're in a world where dinosaurs have come back from extinction. Though how they came back is kept from the audience for some time more, leading audiences scratching their heads as to why dinosaurs are walking around...or how come they are wearing clothes (what do they have to hide?)...or how they are able to speak. All the dinosaurs we see look straight from  the TV sitcom Dinosaurs, including the character trait of having really annoying personalities. We meet one of the more annoying dinosaurs, Teddy, who is an assistant press liaison officer for the police department, and dreams of being an actual police detective. Of course, all the human officers laugh at the though of a dinosaur becoming a detective, which is one of several failed attempts to create a subtext of racism, along with comments like, "You're not a specist?" It should come to no surprise to anyone that Teddy and Coltraine are shortly afterwards forced by the department to team up when a dinosaur gets murdered.

The rest of the movie....oh gad, I don't want to think any more of the wretched plot. Seeing things like good actors (Richard Roundtree and Bud Cort) get humiliated in their roles, farting dinosaurs, seeing the feet and hands of the effects crew, the animatronic wires coming out of one dinosaur's a**hole, and the sight of one dinosaur doing an impression of Mae West just make me want to blank all memory of this movie. I once said that students at film schools could benefit from watching bad movies, because seeing them would teach them what not to do when making a movie. However, I don't think that schools should screen Theodore Rex, because seeing the movie year after year would surely raise the suicide rate among university faculty.

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See also: The High Crusade, Elves, Spoiler