Monday, January 15, 2007

Movie Review: Dinosaur 3 ½ Stars

With Disney’s typical smoke-and-mirrors spectacle, Dinosaur is a thunderous movie, filled with thrilling action and amazing effects, but a simplistic storyline. The story team at Disneysaurus Rex distilled Dinosaur to the most basic ingredients of plot; the nuances of character are obviously inventions of the actors who voiced them and not elements of the script.

That said, Dinosaur is an incredible feat in filmmaking. Computer-generated characters inhabit an amazingly realistic world, animated against a backdrop of live-action sets. With remarkable attention to detail, the animators composed their renderings thousands of times, oftentimes with dozens of plates used for a single frame. Cinematic flourishes like lens flares appear in scenes that are otherwise completely computer generated. Mindboggling.

And most importantly, the kids will love it.

An iguanadon egg is snatched from its nest and begins a perilous journey, stolen from one predator by another and so on, until it winds up on a remote island inhabited by a family of lemurs. Aladar (D.B. Sweeney) hatches from within the egg and is raised by Plio (Alfre Woodard) and Yar (Ossie Davis). Although he is gigantic in comparison, Aladar is accepted as a member of the tribe that includes Zini ( Max Casella) and Suri (Hayden Panettiere).

When a great meteor storm destroys the island, Aladar and the lemurs escape to the mainland, discovering that it too has been decimated. They join a herd of iguanadons and other herbivore dinosaurs, including aging brachiasaur Baylene (Joan Plowright) and her triceratop companion Eema (Della Reese), on a treacherous trek across the desert to the nesting grounds. Along the way, Aladar incurs the wrath of herd general Kron (Samuel E. Wright) and the earns the affections of Neera (Julianne Margulies).

Short on story, big everywhere else, Dinosaur is no Toy Story. But, like that visually fascinating film, it will revolutionize the way films are made.

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