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Saturday, June 2, 2012

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 10 - Theodore Rex (1995)

Theodore Rex (1993; New Line Cinema)
Here it is people, the worst direct-to-video futuristic dinosaur police epic/murder mystery ever made.  I WOULD say it was the only one, but it actually isn’t.  Still, Theodore Rex happened, and unfortunately for us (or maybe fortunately, as the alternative is pretty painful too) it’s the one we remember.  This movie is just one of many that resigned Whoopi Goldberg to a bit part on a primetime game show and ultimately to that pit of evaporating estrogen we know as the View.  This is a career-killing disaster of a movie and it was a true crash and burn for a star that was, at one time, at the very top of the A-list.

The plot (if you want to call it that) involves a cop named Coltrane (Goldberg) who is teamed up with an analyst name Teddy, who happens to be a dinosaur.  See, dinosaurs live among people in this world.  Yeah, we’re supposed to buy this.  I mean, just a few years earlier we were in awe of the power of nature in Jurassic Park and now these majestic creatures are reduced to animatronic dopes who try to squeeze laughs out of scenes by knocking things over with their tails.  The central theme involves a scientist who wants to launch a missile to recreate another ice age after building another ark, wiping out all life and starting over again.  Okay.  That’s not really a new concept, we’ve seen this plot before.  In fact, we’ve seen almost everything in this movie before.  

Theodore Rex looks bad...  Like... really bad.  This is a dark, drab and all-around ugly film.  Demolition Man was bad, but at least it had some life and color to its futuristic world, but this movie is bland and obscured by smoke as so many cheap sci-fi cities are.  On top of that. the characters are flat out confusing.  Some of them dress normal, but others, for no apparent reason, wear elaborate futuristic clothing.  I guess they ran long on the wardrobe budget with Whoopi’s gear.  

While all of those complaints are valid, the single worst thing about this film are the dinosaurs.  They don’t look convincing at all.  Teddy easily looks the best of all the dinos in this flick, but that isn’t saying much.  He looks like he was just lifted off of a cheap amusement park ride and the others look like they were made by a completely different staff.  They are ugly, stiff and unconvincing, and this film as a whole is dark, dank, badly written and filled with humorless gags and thrill-free action.

Theodore Rex is another cash-in, and just like the previous film, was trying to ride the wave of dinosaur movies that were so big in the early to mid 90’s.  However, this is one of the films that would ultimately contribute to the death of this trend (Thank GOD!).  Still, it is pretty sad to see the talented and funny Whoopi Goldberg fall so far due to a long trail of bad career decisions that led her to this point.  Here she almost seems desperate, and it pains me to see talented people land flat on their faces so dramatically.  This movie was hated.  I mean HATED by moviegoers in the 90’s.  If you ask a sixteen-year-old “You know that movie Theodore Rex?” they’d probably look at you like you were an idiot, but folks my age remember.  Boy, oh boy, do we remember.  

Theodore Rex is an important anomaly for this list. It was produced and filmed for a theatrical release but ended up going straight-to-video. That is a bad, baaaad sign for any film and while I tried to mostly avoid direct-to-video releases (because they tend to encompass the worst of the worst) what makes Theodore Rex special is it was, at the time, the biggest-budget direct-to-video movie ever produced. It was apparently did so bad in screenings that the studios could not justify a wide theatrical release. Think about this. Batman and Robin got a wide release. BIO-DOME GOT A WIDE RELEASE! This one was the one that studios thought should be stuffed in a cardboard box rather than cast on the Silver Screen!

I can remember this movie coming out about the time that I started to grow an identity as a filmgoer, in the years where I began to develop a personal taste for things; these were my teenage years.  I reluctantly watched this one expecting at least to get a few laughs, but it just left me angry and bitter.  My taste at the time was still pretty bad in retrospect.  While making some major changes to my bedroom in recent weeks I found some of my old VHS tapes and could not believe that, at one time, I liked these films.  Not because I’m so much of a snob and refuse to like them now based on principle.  I take the effort to see as many movies from as many eras and genres as possible to develop a broad taste and an understanding of the spectrum of quality in films.  When I was younger I didn’t not see many of the films I have since as an adult and did not see past the horizon I drew for myself when it came to certain types of movies.  Today, in retrospect, I look at some of the movies I actually LIKED and think, “Wow!  So I liked a lot of these dreadful movies but hated Theodore Rex?!”  Hopefully that adds some perspective to my opinion of this movie.

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