If there were some way to weigh a film’s quality against its budget, movies like “The Blair Witch Project,” “Clerks” and even “The Godfather” would score excellent ratings. On the other hand, movies like “Titanic,” “Waterworld” and “The Postman” would receive shamefully low grades. But those infamous three works no longer need to worry about being at the very bottom of such a list because, in one of the more surprising revelations of the year, Disney has dumped $200 million on “Dinosaur” a truly wretched plague upon the silver screen.
Plot? What plot? Yep folks, Disney seems to have forgotten that they are what they are today because they used to be in the story-telling business. “Dinosaur” starts off with a semi-amusing storyline, even though it is stolen from another Disney film, “Tarzan,” (a creature born to and raised by the wrong species, in this case a dinosaur and some furry little monkeys respectively) but then the movie becomes more or less a tremendously oversized David Mamet play where the protagonists just wander back and forth contemplating life’s issues. Now, this works quite well with two or three characters, a simple set and a highbrow audience. But here we have a whole stampede of prehistoric creatures, no defined setting (is the film in Africa? Montana? Earth?) and a target audience of tots to early teens. Imagine sending in the 82nd Airborne to work as meter maids in a small Rhode Island town – now you get the picture.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: May 19, 2000
Budget: $200 Million
Running Time: Approx. 85 Minutes
Directors: Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton
Producer: Pam Marsden
Screenplay: John Harrison and Robert Nelson Jacobs
Cast: D. B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella, Hayden Panettiere, Samuel E. Wright, Joan Plowright and Julianna Margulies
But hey, even when Disney fails elsewhere there are always those embarrassingly catchy tunes to keep you entertained, right? Not here. Nope, folks the Mouse House seems to think it has outgrown Elton John. Big mistake! This leaves the audience with officially no pop-music salvation and only a mawkish score to distract themselves.
So at least there is $200 million worth of eye candy to stare at for 80-someodd minutes, right? Not exactly (do I feel like a Hertz commercial or what!). Actually, the 3.2 million hours of work, 45 terabytes of disc space (approximately equal to 70,000 CD-ROMs) and enough money to pay the President of the United States” salary for the next millennium accomplish very little. Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” has better dinosaurs, Jerry Bruckheimer knows how to make a better chase scene and Joel Schumacher is superior in terms of manufacturing a scarcely-lit film. The prehistoric creatures, although obviously carefully crafted, look too childish and stereotypical – the good ones are smooth, the bad guys have sharp teeth and horns while the little ones possess hearts of gold. One early scene with an explosion looks like a combination of the bomb being dropped over Hiroshima and Nicholas Cage narrowly escaping being engulfed in a gigantic fireball. As for the seemingly never-ending thunder and lightning that conveniently roles around every time something bad happens, it creates more of an “8MM” type feeling than that of a kids movie.
Further confusing the target audience are a couple of very muddled morals. On one hand, the film earns major points for encouraging teamwork. On the other hand, (SPOILER AHEAD) the picture’s hero will ultimately act alone, as his peers look on, to win the final battle of the film.
There is little doubt that Disney will recover from “Dinosaur” and once again find itself at the top of the animation kingdom. Actually, they already have a $75 million visual effects studio that was built for this movie but will be reusable for future projects. For the mean time, though, trust your science teacher dinosaurs are extinct for a reason.