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Case Number 01182

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T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous

Warner Bros. // 1998 // 44 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 11th, 2001

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All Rise...

The Charge

IMAX dino-mayhem comes straight from the big screen to your home!

Opening Statement

I think that in my entire lifetime I have seen about two or three IMAX movies. From what I recall (it's been quite a while) they are usually about nature, or mountain climbing, or outer space. Usually light, happy things. Whatever the theme, it usually is very big in scope. If you've never been to an IMAX film, the movie takes place on a humongous screen in a very large theater. In 1998, IMAX featured the dinosaur epic T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous, a 44-minute film about that time in history when large, scaly lizards slurped up other small, scaly lizards. Featuring Peter Horton (the actor, not the lizard) from television's "thirtysomething," T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous comes to DVD via Warner Brothers in a very big way.

Facts of the Case

The "story" of this film revolves around young Ally Hayden (Liz Stauber) and her father, Donald (Horton). Liz really wants to get into digging like her father. He works on different sites finding dinosaur fossils and petrified eggs. Ally keeps trying to get him to take her to the digs, but to no avail. One night while Donald is in the local museum doing research, Ally drops by for him to look over her school report. She speculates that the Tyrannosaurus Rex may have laid his eggs in a nest like a bird. Her father thinks this is preposterous, and tells her so (in a very loving, gentle "Father Knows Best" kind of way).

Poor Ally is crushed, but not as crushed as a round egg-looking fossil that she accidentally knocks over on when everyone is out of the room. The egg cracks open and a putrid gas squirts out. Through the instantaneous magic of movies, Ally is transported back to the time of the walking lizards…Ally's gone "back to the Cretaceous!"

While back in the past, Ally sees all kinds of wondrous things, including famous scientists, legendary dinosaur painters, and the dreaded T-Rex himself! It's a sight to behold as Ally takes a journey through time…"back to the Cretaceous!!!!"

I really like using the phrase…"back to the Cretaceous!"

The Evidence

T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous is basically a small story on which to hang dinosaur set pieces off. It's not that T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous is a particularly bad film, it's just a rather boring one when compared to something like Jurassic Park or its sequel, Jurassic Park: The Lost World.

All the actors are fine in their roles, though that's not what viewers will likely be watching for. The real stars are the dinosaurs, and though they aren't necessarily disappointing, they just aren't that exciting. My opinion is that if a T-Rex is not chewing, chasing, or hunting a human, he's just not that much fun to watch. I know, I know…this is a "family" film. True, but does that mean that we still can't have one or two people used as Slim Jim snack treats for the T-Rex?

The story is very weak, but since this was made directly for the IMAX screen it's assumed the filmmakers weren't going for an Oscar winning script. With a running time of just under 45 minutes, the movie moves fairly quickly. The effects are passable, though for a real visceral treat of rampaging dinosaurs, rent Spielberg's movies instead.

Though I am a tad harsh on T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous, the realization is that it's aimed more for children than it is for adults. Adults may enjoy it somewhat, but it's the kids who will most likely want to see this over and over again. Ally is a character they can all relate with, and through her eyes they'll be able to view the wonder and disappointments of having a father who digs up two million year old lizard poop for a living. The film is not rated, but it's a suitable film for children of any age, and makes for a nice 45-minute distraction while you're attempting to get dinner ready.

T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous is presented in a standard version, modified from the original 70mm print. As soon as the swift moving opening sequence opens, you can instantly see that this film played much better on the IMAX screen than it does on a regular TV. Though the print is very clean, it's a disappointment to see such a large film cropped to such a small field (not that there was much of an option, unless you have an IMAX screen hidden in your house).

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (in English, French and Spanish). This is a great example of a well done 5.1 audio track. Sounds came from all directions, and the music/dialogue/effects were all mixed very well. Rear speakers were optimized as well as the front speakers, and the whole thing gives you the feeling that you're deep in a jungle filled with dinosaurs. A very nice mix by Warner. Subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese are also included.

T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous includes two special features. The first is a five minute documentary on the making of T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous. This is a very fluffy extra, filled with brief snippets of interviews with stars Peter Horton, Liz Stauber, and director Brett Leonard, as well as some of the production crew. It's not hugely insightful, and runs more like a promotional spot than a documentary.

The second feature is a full frame trailer for T-Rex: Back To The Cretaceous, as well as a trailer for IMAX films on DVD. Ho-hum at best.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

For kids, this will be a fun feature that they may want to watch over and over again. For adults, this will get old very quickly. The disc is decent, though the extras seem pointless. Why throw on a documentary if it's not really going to give any insight into the film? I stress again that this is mainly for kids, and with all the violence and sex out there, this is something that you'll be happy to have them watch.

Closing Statement

If you've got youngin's, this will be a good buy for them if they're in that "I love dinosaurs" stage (as every child tends to go through). It's a decent disc, though nothing spectacular. If you really want to give them a treat, take them to a movie at an actual IMAX theater. Now that's entertainment!

The Verdict

Acquitted on all charges, though a tad bit guilty of being a Jurassic Park rip off.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 96
Extras: 49
Acting: 76
Story: 73
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 44 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Short Films

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer
• Behind-the-Scenes Documentary


• None

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Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.