It occurred to me that up until now, I have never used the recap-driven type of review writing popularized by many of the B-Masters sites, and this would be a perfect choice to try writing up with that approach... so, the closest I’ve ever gotten to writing a review in classic Jabootu style:
What if you crossed Labyrinth with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... and then took out all the parts that weren’t sucking?
Some categories of film have a much easier time than others at attaining the rank of “so bad it’s good”. Science fiction and horror are two examples of film genres in which it is fairly easy for the lamest of filmmaking efforts to provide a bounty of unintentional amusement. Some other genres have a much more difficult time. For instance, when a comedy fails, it’s very rare for the result to be so bad it’s good; it’s more likely that when a comedy is truly horrendous, the result will be something only useful for purposes of torture.
Another category which has a hard time breaking into so-bad-it’s-good territory is children’s movies. But sometimes, one of them achieves that. This one, for instance.
Our Story: Timmy, Jamie, and Mick are three young folks who are dinosaur fans. The vibe seems to be along the lines that Jamie is Timmy’s older sister and Mick is sorta her boyfriend, or something like that, but they never spell it out... there are just these three kids, one preteen and two teens, who share a common love of dino kitsch.
We open with Jamie reading aloud a fanfic she’s written about dinosaur characters, which is way too sweet and sappy for Timmy. A diary-grabbing scuffle ensues, but they settle down when Timmy produces a new episode of their favorite dino cartoon. They sit on the floor and do a dino theme hand-dance as we watch the opening credits...
Good lord. One of the characters in the cartoon’s opening credits responds to the sight of a woman by grabbing the neck of the guy next to him and wanking it. In closeup!
Timmy’s parents are mad scientists! They can time-tunnel random objects into the screen of a large projection TV... “Oh crap, look at the time — let’s leave all the equipment turned on, we have to run to the airport!”
Says Timmy, “Let’s watch this dinosaur cartoon on the big TV in the lab!” WHOOSH — one or two mispushed buttons later, all three of them have been slurped inside the TV, and are embedded in a real life version of the world of their favorite cartoon, in which the cuddly animated 2D characters have been transformed into 3D rubber suits and bad muppets. It’s time for adventure!
(Though a dissenting faction maintains, quite reasonably, that it’s time for kicking Timmy’s ass, said ass remains sadly unkicked throughout the tale. By the way, Timmy is played by the devilishly handsome and charismatic Omri Haim Katz, who in this production passes as their big name star.)
The bad guys appear... and guess what: the bad guys in the land of dinos are humans! Neanderthals, actually. They’re called “rockies”, and they are led by a tyrant known as Mr. Big. The kids side with their favorite dino characters, and though the one dinomuppet they first meet has trouble accepting them for the initial five minutes, after this there’s never any confusion caused by them siding against their own species, even in crowd fights where most of those present have never seen them before.
Anyway, a squad of rockies bust into Saur City and steal their power plant’s McGuffin Unit. Without it, they have only 24 hours until Shit Happens. But the kids know what to do: we’ll go to Tartown and get Rex, and his pal Tops — the heroes of the cartoon. These two reptilian badasses will inevitably smite the rockies and save Saur City. And the first muppet they met, whose name is Forry, is supposed to be the one who goes to Tartown to fetch help. Mick (who despite being on the good side of puberty often seems more immature than Timmy) tells Forry that he considers him a hero. But alas, Forry is no hero... he is, it turns out, something insidiously evil... he is an Odious Comic Relief. How odious? Odious enough to make numerous hubba-hubba comments about the rockies’ women... Anyway, he shows no brave willingness to venture off to Tartown until it’s clear that the kids mean to go there with or without him.
They get there (by way of a lame scary cemetary with bubbly swamps and crap, carrying Forry the whole time), and go into a dino western saloon, in which assorted dino tough guys drink and play cards, and dino hookers mash their scaly charms into Mick’s face. Jamie and Mick get served “drinks” which turn out to be better described as “eats”, since they have solid parts, like tentacles and eye-stalks. Jamie recoils bodily into the arms of a nearby dino...
Did that guy in the rubber suit just grab her boobs? Oh dear, I think he did. Admittedly he has rubber mitts on...
...anyway, this is how they meet Tops, the more approachable of the two badasses they are seeking. He introduces them to Rex... who — Oh my Gosh! — doesn’t want to save Saur City.
But then several rockies bust in! For no damn reason at all! And there’s a barroom brawl! In which Rex is unstoppable, and Tops is a martial arts master just like certain other jive-talking rubber suit reptiles that kids in the audience may be familiar with, and Jamie’s giant ’70s glasses get stepped on. By Mick. And somehow, the fact that rockies walked into the bar for no reason other than to get their asses kicked — I mean, they were way outmatched even if Rex and Tops hadn’t been there, so what’s the point? — manages to motivate Rex to say okay, he will come with them after all to save the wusses in Saur City.
I might as well mention here that despite the rapidly approaching failure of the de-McGuffined power plant, the dramatic pacing throughout the story is quite relaxed. Easy-going. Casual, you might say. As a true Californian I always appreciate it when people know how to be mellow and laid back. I can only admire these guys as spiritual fellows for taking such a relaxed attitude toward a ticking countdown of death.
So in keeping with this practice of mellowhood, once they get back near rockie territory, they hang around, grab some shuteye, and do some character development. Jamie and Mick take their relationship to the next level — or rather, the first level; I guess I was mistaken as to the previous nature of their relationship. Whatever it was will have to remain a mystery, I guess. Jamie expresses her new admiration of Mick’s marginal manliness by lying to him about how good he was in the bar brawl. Now there’s a solid foundation for lasting trust and respect in an intimate relationship.
Timmy tells Rex that if fiction can be real, he doesn’t want to go back. Rex responds by taking Timmy on a boat ride to Exposition Island. No wait, it’s called Skull Island! Really. Rex better watch his back, I hear there’s a creature on Skull Island that resembles the Rockies but is far more terrible — a gigantic hairy monster with opposable thumbs that can tear a tyrannosaurus limb from limb. But alas, they never meet this legendary creature... Rex remains blissfully ignorant of his narrow escape. Anyway, we learn that the bad guys of old were allosauri, and Rex’s dad fought them off, but then sold out to them and is remembered as a traitor. The last allosaurus, trying to reclaim power, is Mr. Big. Who, in his tower, chortles that soon allosauruses will rule again.
This leads to two questions: First, if Big is the last allosaur, where are more of them going to come from? Is he an evil parthenogeneticist? And second: why the fuck does his army consist of, of all creatures, hominids???
On the first question, I’ll assume that his girlfriend must be someone whose genetic material is somehow compatible with allosaurus DNA. Someone like, say, Brigitte Nielsen.
What I’m supposed to be wondering is why Big is building a stone tower. Rex does not know.
At dawn, Mr. Big rolls along in his miniature doll-powered rail car, which in closeup becomes neanderthal-powered. The hominids exchange raunchy banter in incomprehensible “funny” voices, and Big laughs baritonally. The plan was supposed to be that the good guys would make their move at the dawn changing of the guard, but they are such lame-asses that the rockies find them first, while they’re regathering after their varied expositional and character-developmental activities of the night. A fierce battle ensues in which Rex just gives attacking rockies enough of a push so they lurch off-camera, and that’s apparently enough to dispose of them. Timmy hides (and finds something in his pocket), Tops joins the fight, and he and Rex congratulate themselves by saying “We laid them out like turtles.” But the supply of fresh rockies is nonstop — Timmy gets cornered, and Mick has to dive in to save him... Tops gets knocked down by Rex’s elbow... twice... Timmy is cornered again. Instinctively, he makes a defensive move with the object he pulled out of his pocket -- -- --- --- ---- ---
It’s a remote control for the laboratory’s giant TV set, and when he points it at someone and hits “pause”, they freeze!
With his awesome powers of remoteness, enabling him to pause and rewind people at will, Timmy now becomes a veritable Wizard Of Speed And Time. Mr. Big, from his rail car, sees the fight going badly in inexplicable ways... but we don’t: apparently one or two stop-motion or reverse effects was about all they wanted to bother putting on screen. Damn, this is supposed to be the moment of vicarious superpower payoff, when the remote that we all wield becomes an instrument for discomfiting all of our imaginary enemies. What a ripoff, I want my summer blockbuster action spectacular remote control effects!
Mr. Big decides he must have for himself this new advanced weapons technology.
(I might mention here that whenever any dino talks, the lips of its rubber head ripple grotesquely, like the top fin of an electric eel or something, and in Mr. Big’s case the rippling is particularly weird and wiggly and unsynchronized to any words.)
A mass attack is thwarted by rewind, but when the battle seems finished, two stealthy rockies sneak up behind Timmy and capture him and the remote. Oh no! Our hero is in the hands of filthy brutes! Goodness, what will become of him? Will he remain exiled forever in a land ruled by a tyrant with power over time? Will he be forced to toil in slavery? Will his tender young flesh be subjected to unthinkable indignities by uncouth barbarians?
Will anyone care? Not me.
But Rex, Jamie, et al care. They decide to go in “undercover”. And Mick discovers something interesting on the ground... a pair of double-A batteries!
One of the hominids decides to try out the batteryless remote. On his girlfriend. I quote herewith her response, in full:
“That’s it, we’re over. There’s definitely something missing, Link.”
which is spoken in a stage New Jersey accent.
“Undercover” consists of Mick and Jamie putting on rockie-style furs, and Rex and Tops dressing pretty much as before (they wore slacks and jackets, and looked good doing it too, so don’t you give them no disrespect, bitches). They walk right into the tower, take the elevator, and then try to figure out how to maneuver a pair of sentries guarding the dungeon entrance away from their posts. The plan? Tear some of Jamie’s furs off. The neanderthals go gaga for a half-dressed female specimen of their genus (if not exactly their species) — one who has not only her elbows but even her knees showing. (And they made this smutty filth for children??) After telling the guards that they don’t have to fight, there’s plenty of her for everybody, etc, she doesn’t lure them into the next room where her friends have an ambush — she picks up a discarded styrofoam club and whacks both their heads with a single swing. They go down so easy that I am left with certain small doubts as to just how much the badasshood of Rex and Tops really amounts to.
So they look through the dungeon, calling for Timmy, unlocking assorted other dino-people... and a Fateful Meeting takes place. It’s Rex’s father! Now we will learn what REALLY happened on that dreadful day long ago.......................
Aw, who cares? Dad had an excuse, it doesn’t matter what it was.
So they’re reconciled! How sweet. And how perfunctory — explanation and reunion only took like fifteen seconds. Now Dad says that for some reason they have to destroy the whole tower, like a James Bondian supervillain lair. This will be accomplished by Dad opening the self-destruct valves in the basement. Being the most disposable character present, he gets no argument about his suitability for what sounds like a suicide mission. Anyway, Timmy ain’t in the dungeon.
He’s being dangled over a pit of yellow glowing stuff by Mr. Big himself! “HOW DOES IT WORK?!” His friends, having no idea where to look for him, stumble right into the interrogation room the first time they get out of the elevator. Rex takes an tremendous flying leap at Big, and carnage ensues. Jamie fights Jersey Girl for the remote — Jamie tries to use it and is completely puzzled by its nonfunctioningness. Hominids get tossed every which way. Rex is swamped by sheer numbers, but Tops (arriving late because he was freeing prisoners) fixes that. Rex and Big naturally end up mano a mano. I mean, lizardo a lizardo. Three times Timmy is almost dropped into the yellow glow, but each time, some kind of Wile E. Coyote delayed-action gravity holds him up just long enough for somebody to catch hold of his rope. Jamie is still trying to make the remote work, while fighting Jersey... But Mick gets Timmy untied and gives him the batteries, he scoops up the remote, and when he gets a clear shot at Big (who, having failed at fisticuffs, is now brandishing a short-sword at Rex), Timmy pushes the disintegrate button.
What the fuck ? ? ?
Yeah, this remote — which, by the way, has far fewer buttons than any of my remotes — has controls for Pause, Rewind, and Disintegrate. Oh, and Inter-Dimensional Transport, of course.
With Big out of the picture, the surviving hominids immediately change sides. Big’s pet dwarf (I guess I didn’t mention him) yells “I’m free, I’m free!” And Jersey starts working her feminine charms on Forry the muppet, who appreciates same very much.
They’ve got a new problem: one that can only be solved by character growth! Forry’s, as it happens. When they first met him, they exposited that he could fly, but believed he couldn’t — the moment when he learned he really could fly was a favorite part of the cartoon. So to escape the building alive and get the McGuffin Unit back where it belongs in time, Forry has to fly it there. And Forry just up and says he will, without anyone even asking him... whatever struggles he had to go through to achieve this stage of personal empowerment were, uh, off-camera.
Everybody bugs out, and Dad magically uncorks the self-destruct at the perfectly timed time. Said self-destruct is apparently a large stone plug over a source of lava. So when the plug slowly oozes up, I’m expecting the tower will be melted into slag or something. No — once the plug is clear, the whole thing just suddenly explodes, top to bottom, and then, after it falls in pieces, there’s a fireball that looks like it might have had something to do with lava. I deduce that they must have built that tower out of structural nitrocellulose.
Woop de doo, the city is saved I guess, it’s time to go home. They seem awfully confident that they know how to go home, given that none of them had the slightest idea how to operate the equipment that sent them here... anyway, Timmy doesn’t want to go home, he wants to appoint himself as Rex’s offical Annoying Sidekick! So Rex has to give him a sobering fatherly lecture about the importance of returning to your proper space-time continuum and socializing with members of your own gene pool — certainly a valuable piece of guidance for the young people watching this movie to take in, if we don’t want them growing up to be dino-loving commie delinquents. Well, actually it’s mostly Jamie and Mick who talk him into coming back. Forry wants him to stay. He agrees to go but vows to return. He pushes the Interdimensional Transport button and is slurped back to his rightful place: in big trouble with his parents. But wait — the parents want to see what they did, so they fire up the machine again...!...
In the closing credits, Omri Katz raps! I tell you this, he’s no Vanilla Ice.
......So, after setting up as a mystery the question of why Big was building that tower, did they ever tell us his purpose? They did not. Just that it had to be destroyed. But the knowledge of its meaning died with Big and Dad... who knows what epochal breakthrough may have been lost to dinosaurkind forever in this cataclysm? Perhaps it’s for the best and there are certain things dinosaur was not meant to know.
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