Film Review: We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story
In 1993, Dick and Ralph Zondag, Phil Nibbelink, and Simon Wells released We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, based on the children’s book of the same name by Hudson Talbott. Starring John Goodman, Blaze Berdahl, Rhea Perlman, Jay Leno, Rene LeVant, Felicity Kendal, Charles Fleischer, Walter Cronkite, Joey Shea, Julia Child, Kenneth Mars, Yeardley Smith, Martin Short and Larry King, the film grossed $9.3 million at the box office. Video game adaptations were released following the film with titles on the SNES, Sega Genesis and Game Boy and a novelization of the film was later released.
A quartet of dinosaurs are given intelligence by Captain Neweyes and travel to the middle future so they can fulfill the wishes of children in New York City who want to see real dinosaurs. However, when they meet up with two runaway children who want to join the circus, the dinosaurs are derailed from going to the Museum of Natural History. When panic breaks out from there being real dinosaurs, they end up encountering Professor Screweyes.
A film that really lays heavily on the nostalgia factor, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story is a fun film, especially in its dropping of a quartet of dinosaurs into the middle of Manhattan. However, just because it’s a fun movie doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good movie. It’s really only moderately decent, namely because the film’s plot has a lot wrong with it. Neweyes’ plan is to have the dinosaurs navigate New York City and the modern world with their newfound intelligence. However, he clearly overestimates what his Brain Grain is able to do as they continue to exhibit childlike intelligence and naiveté. It’s off-putting that Neweyes created and has had apparent success with the Brain Grain but can’t see its limitations. Further, he drops them off in the city without any instructions or training in how a modern society functions, instead leaving them to their devices with only the warning to have nothing to do with Screweyes. A lot of the action in the film revolves around the dinosaurs blindly walking into trouble, fleeing the police and then rescuing two kids who signed a contract with someone who is obviously evil. Yes, Neweyes does come back during the climax to save everything, but it appears that time travel does nothing and he can only show up after everything has transpired. What’s more is that the whole part of the plot that centers on Screweyes transpires because Louie walks into the circus after hours and pesters the man to join after continually being rebuffed. On the other hand, seeing the dinosaurs and their interactions with the humans and the trappings of modern day civilization was interesting and something that could have been much better fleshed out in Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur had that not completely dropped the ball.
Speaking of Screweyes, the film becomes a lot darker after his introduction. He’s go the trappings of a halfway decent villain with his charisma as well as everything that surrounds his circus of fear. The man isn’t above taking in children to use as sideshow acts, even if he does have to be persuaded, and is seen as not having the ability to laugh when it comes to Stubbs the clown. It actually makes him more of a villain in how he changes his dealings with the kids and with Stubbs. He’s overtly terrifying around the former, but with the latter, he just leads him on and lets him try to evoke humor, knowing that it’s never going to do anything. But, while he is a good villain, the film demonstrates that it has no knowledge of the word subtlety, showing that he’s basically Satan, seen when he has Louie and Cecilia sign the contract in their own blood.
Then there’s how the climax is resolved: through the power of love. In many films and television shows, that’s not a problem at all due to how said power is a major factor in their stories. But here, the audience saw what people both wished and feared through different machines, but it was never demonstrated until the climax that a person or dinosaur could go from a savage monster to civilized friend through love. The dinosaurs were turned civilized through Brain Grain and turned back into monsters through Brain Drain. It makes it convenient that Louie was able to turn Rex back into a civilized creature by appealing to his emotion.
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