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New Line Home Cinema presents
Theodore Rex (1996)

"You cannot judge a dino by his scales."
- Katie Coltrane (Whoopi Goldberg)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: August 24, 2003

Stars: Whoopi Goldberg, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Juliet Landau, Bud Cort, Richard Roundtree
Director: Jonathan Betuel

MPAA Rating: PG for (sci-fi violence and language)
Run Time: 01h:31m:37s
Release Date: July 08, 2003
UPC: 794043637629
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ D+AB+ C

DVD Review

Whoopi Goldberg has made a truckload of bad movies, but Theodore Rex may be the turkey she'll never live down. It's the type of god-awful embarrassment that often winds up in an actor's obituary, if it doesn't succeed in killing the actor first. Poor Whoopi weathered a barrage of critical barbs upon the film's 1996 release, so she can't be pleased that New Line has released Theodore Rex on DVD, dredging up a movie she undoubtedly hoped had been fossilized, and inciting an all-new assault by carnivorous reviewers like me. (Just kidding, Whoop. I'm really a pussycat.)

With a premise so bizarre, it's a wonder any studio ever bankrolled the project in the first place. Just imagine the pitch session: "Deep in the next century, a mad scientist genetically revives dinosaurs. But they're not scary and slimy like the creatures in Jurassic Park; they're cute and cuddly so kids will love 'em. And get this—they talk! Kind of like Barney but with millions more spent on special effects! They dress in regular clothes and have real jobs and interact with humans just like the toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, except their breath really stinks and they fart all the time. I told you, kids are gonna love this!

"Anyway, this mad scientist hatches a demented plot to destroy the human race and create his own world of genetically altered species. But two workers—one human and one dinosaur—escape from his compound and race to alert the police. On their way, they're murdered. To solve the crime, the police pair this no-nonsense, tough female cop with Theodore Rex, a lovable T-Rex who yearns for a chance to become the first dinosaur detective. Are you with me? Are you digging it? The two fight and fling verbal zingers (you know, like a kiddie cop buddy flick), wander through this awesome sci-fi world (reminiscent of Star Wars or Blade Runner, but with
lots of color), dodge explosions and shoot these cool laser guns. In the end, they catch the bad guys, learn to respect each other (gotta love the racial harmony angle) and become the best of friends. Are we talking a 50 mil opening weekend, or what?"

Theodore Rex does possess a few clever angles, infusing itself with a look that could only be classified as "cartoon noir." Writer-director Jonathan Betuel (My Science Project) offsets bright colors with dark shadows to produce a sumptuous visual canvas almost as lush as a Technicolor MGM musical. In this futuristic Toontown, the hard-boiled characters call humans "soft-skins," dinosaurs "scalers," and brand those with prejudicial leanings "specists" (a slick twist on "racist"). Some mildly amusing scenes, most concerning the slapstick antics of Teddy's wayward tail, enliven the proceedings, but disbelief can only be suspended so far. After the first half-hour, the novelty of inter-species relations wears thin and watching Whoopi trade G-rated wisecracks with a reptile becomes increasingly painful.

Sadly, the family genre muzzles Goldberg's racy ethnic wit, leaving her little to do except play straight woman to the guy in the dino costume. (You can tell she's just dying to spout off a string of expletives.) Throughout the film Whoopi looks stiff and uncomfortable (who wouldn't?), but whether it's due to acting with Teddy or wearing a skin-tight jumpsuit is open for debate.

If Theodore Rex aggressively targeted tots, it might be more kindly regarded. But advertising it as a family flick (with a PG rating to boot) only fools audiences into believing the film will appeal to all ages. Sure, the whole family can watch Theodore Rex together, but anyone over the age of 6 will have a tough time seeing it through to the finish.

Did I mention I have a 6-year-old son? And that he loved the movie? He's even watching it again now as I write this review. My 10-year-old daughter, however, thought the whole thing was "pretty dumb," my wife got up and left the room halfway through, and my 12-year-old son refused to watch Theodore Rex at all.

So much for family movie night at the Krauss house.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: D+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: I wish I liked the movie more, because the DVD's picture quality is nothing short of spectacular. With razor sharp clarity, the bright, cartoonish colors leap off the screen, creating a palette awash with deep reds, yellows and blues. At times, the shadowy noir style overwhelms the widescreen anamorphic image, flooding it with too much black, but the darkness produces breathtaking contrasts when color bursts into the frame. Lines are always crisp, the vivid hues never bleed (quite an accomplishment) and flesh tones remain true and solid throughout. I looked hard for edge enhancement but found none and shadow detail is often exceptional. Normally, a ridiculous movie like Theodore Rex makes my eyes droopy, but the spotless transfer kept my attention riveted from beginning to end. Rides at Disneyland don't look near this good.

A full frame version of the film is also included on the single-sided disc and looks every inch as vibrant as its widescreen counterpart.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is first-rate as well, with the often booming DD 5.1 track more reminiscent of a full throttle action movie than a mundane family flick. The track provides plenty of surround opportunities and nice directionality across the front speakers, producing a sound field filled with presence and depth. Ambient noise is appropriately subtle, but audible enough to be enjoyed, although some explosions and crashes go overboard (especially for a kids movie), with volume a notch or two louder than the accompanying dialogue. Characters, however, are always easily understood, and the active audio helps keep viewers involved, complimenting the impeccable video transfer.

Also included, a Dolby stereo track offers far less fidelity, but remains clear and clean.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Little Vampire, Monkey Trouble, Mr. Nanny, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Unknown keep style
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Pick That Flick Trivia Game
Extras Review: Aside from the original theatrical trailer and a few previews for other New Line DVDs, the disc offers only one extra, the kid-flavored (and surprisingly challenging) Pick That Flick Trivia Game. After clicking "start," a random image pops up from one of thirteen New Line family films, and players must select the movie that matches the image. My 10-year-old daughter enjoyed this game much more than Theodore Rex itself.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Young kids—especially boys—will get a kick out of Theodore Rex. The film caters to their fascination with dinosaurs, laser guns, cartoon villains, and bathroom humor. Rent it on a rainy Saturday afternoon and let the little guy watch it over and over and over. Just make sure you rent something else for the rest of the family.

 


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