A quick preface before we begin: I’ve actually seen this movie before watching it again for this review. In fact, it’s one of the first movies I remember getting on DVD. But with the release of Disney Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur last month, I figured it would make sense for me to review Disney’s other movie about dinosaurs; I am talking about 2000’s Dinosaur, which blends live-action scenery with computer-generated dinosaurs to create a great-looking film with a few flaws. Yes, it’s been long enough that I can talk about this film without my nostalgia-goggles on, so let’s get right down to it: this is my review of Dinosaur.
The movie begins with our main hero, an Iguanodon named Aladar (D.B. Sweeney) being swept away from his nest as an egg. He eventually ends up on an island populated entirely by lemurs, and one of the lemurs, Plio (Alfre Woodard) takes him in and raises him as her own. Cut to many years later, and Aladar is a teenager and has adjusted to life on the island, though he secretly wishes he could meet another member of his species. When an asteroid strikes and destroys their island, Aladar and four lemurs are the only ones to escape to the mainland. Once there, they encounter a large herd of various herbivore dinosaurs who are all headed to the “Nesting Grounds,” a lush, green, safe place to raise their young and avoid predators. The herd leader is a strict Iguanodon named Kron (Samuel E. Wright), whose sister Neera (Julianna Marguiles) starts to develop feelings for Aladar. Working together, these herbivores must survive against dangerous predators and nature itself to make it to the Nesting Grounds in one piece.
This movie came out seven years after Jurassic Park blew audiences away with dinosaurs brought to life through CGI and practical effects, but the people behind Dinosaur had the guts to make the dinosaurs the main stars of the show, integrating CGI into live-action pretty well for the time period. It’s by no means perfect, but some of the aerial shots of waterfalls, the ocean, the desert, and many other locales really make for a beautiful-looking movie. The effects for the dinosaurs are pretty good; again, nothing groundbreaking, but for the main stars of the show, they do just fine. The CGI for the lemurs, however, was a bit hit and miss; they’re a few steps above the puppet they used for the kid’s show Zoboomafoo (is that still a relevant reference? Am I showing my age? Whatever), but the lemurs can be kind of weird to look at nowadays, especially when you consider how real CGI could look in other Disney projects like Toy Story 2 or Monsters, Inc., which were released a year before and a year after Dinosaur, respectively. Again, it was impressive how the filmmakers integrated live-action and CGI, but some of the CGI is quite dated and it’s tough to ignore that.
The characters are decent, with none of them really standing out all too well. Aladar is kind and naïve about the world and wants to know more about life and love and so on and so forth. Kron is your typical survival-of-the-fittest leader, without too much character development. Neera is there just to be a love interest for Aladar, and doesn’t really develop much beyond that. The two older dinosaurs that Aladar befriends are good for a couple light chuckles, but not much else; I don’t even remember their names, to be honest. Also, aside from raising Aladar, the lemurs are kind of inconsequential in this movie; they mostly ride on different dinosaurs’ backs and provide advice in some key scenes. Other than that, they’re just kind of there to be comic relief, and it doesn’t always work that well. The main “villains” of this movie are two Carnotaurus dinosaurs that stalk the herd, but they don’t have any lines of dialogue, so we really don’t know much about them. It’s kind of interesting that some dinosaurs in this movie can talk while others can’t, but it’s actually a bit distracting at times. Bottom line, the characters all boil down to so-so at best, inconsequential at worst.
The story is serviceable, albeit unnecessarily complicated; it could have been a simple movie about survival, but they threw in a love story, goofy comic relief in the form of lemurs and a dinosaur that acts like a dog (for whatever reason), and it just muddies the waters of what could have been a simple story about a herd of dinosaurs trying to not die. But for what it is, it’s okay; the movie’s run time is about 10 minutes shorter than your typical Disney film, so the story will be done faster.
All in all, while I still have a bit of nostalgia for this movie, I have to admit that it isn’t as good as I remember it to be. The landscapes are beautifully shot, the CGI, while dated, is passable, especially when you factor in how well the film integrates the CG with the live action, and while the characters fall a bit flat, they’re likeable enough. I just hope that Disney and Pixar have created a more enjoyable and put-together film in The Good Dinosaur. I’m glad I dug Dinosaur back up, but I also think it should be put in a museum with some other fossils.
Written by Joey Sack