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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

As seen in the theatrical trailer (which has been creating buzz since it led off Toy Story 2 last fall), an iguanodon egg is plucked from its nest and sent on a wild journey before hatching in the company of primates. A lemur family proceeds to raise the three-ton lizard, named Aladar, as its adopted son. When a meteor shower decimates the lemurs’ island, Aladar and his closest kin find safety back on the mainland. Or do they? Carnivores close in, forcing the refugees to join a herd of dinos trekking across barren land to reach their lush nesting grounds. The herd is essentially a microcosm of every grade-school playground on earth, modeling survival of the fittest with bullies, followers and those who just can’t keep up. Aladar’s immediate nemesis is Kron, the prideful, stubborn leader who rules by intimidation and doesn’t play well with others. Those flames of conflict are fanned by a budding romance between Aladar and Neera, Kron’s sister. Meanwhile, Aladar shows concern for old and/or disabled colleagues whose inability to keep the pace could make them lunch for some voracious “Carnotaurs.”

Positive Elements: Dinosaur’s noble themes may not break new ground, but they run the gamut. The dominant male lemur overcomes fear and prejudice, choosing to raise the newly hatched Aladar with compassion rather than dispose of him. When Zini is the only male not chosen by a female during the mating ritual (read: last kid picked for kickball), Aladar offers him encouragement. While Kron spurns the old and weak in his herd, Aladar dedicates himself to helping and inspiring those same helpless comrades. Young dinos learn the value of teamwork and cooperation, which is modeled in the film’s climax as the herd unites to ward off a predator (“If we scatter, he’ll pick us off. Stand together”). Kron makes a fatal decision, proving that pride really does come before a fall. Even so, in Kron’s time of need Aladar unselfishly rushes to his aid despite their less-than-cordial history (a great example of what Jesus instructs in Luke 6:27-36). Bruton, a dino drill sergeant, softens in the face of Aladar’s kindness and ultimately gives his own life to protect his new friends (an illustration of John 15:13). At times when all hope seems lost, the message to viewers is “persist, persevere and take charge of your destiny.” Indeed, Aladar is the prehistoric epitome of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Spiritual Content: None.

Sexual Content: A lemur practices pick-up lines before he and his buddies embark on an annual mating ritual.

Violent Content: Very intense action scenes. The meteor shower obliterates an entire island and practically every living thing on it (Aladar and his soggy companions look back as their home is consumed by flames). A nest full of eggs is crushed. Several meat-eaters chomp down on twitching prey. In fact, a pack of raptors pick clean the carcass of a fallen dinosaur and a Carnotaur overtakes a slower beast—with a crunch. Although we learn it was all part of a game, an iguanodon appears to eat a lemur in a tense moment of pursuit. A rock slide kills two creatures. Another falls to its death from a cliff. Various battles pit one beast against another in fights for dominance or survival.

Crude or Profane Language: None.

Drug and Alcohol Content: None.

Other Negative Elements: A twice-employed joke involves baby iguanodons urinating while being held by a lemur.

Summary: There’s a lot to like about Dinosaur. The effects are great—notwithstanding an overabundance of crags and desert and not enough greenery—and the messages are solid. Unfortunately, violent moments and intense action make it inappropriate for very young children, while the film’s thin, familiar story and by-the-numbers characters will give older audiences a distinct sense of déjà vu. That narrows the target audience to kids between 8 and 11 who, as Disney knows full well, are the perfect candidates to buy licensed Dinosaur merchandise. But as eye-candy goes, Dinosaur offers adolescents and adults with meager expectations a reasonably enjoyable, morally grounded 80 minutes of distraction.

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Bob Smithouser