“We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story” (1993) FILM REVIEW
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Written by Jambareeqi
Eccentric scientist Captain Neweyes uses his time traveling spaceship to turn a group of dinosaurs into friendly harmless creatures. He then informs them all that kids around the world wish that they could meet real dinosaurs, and they agree to make these kids’ dreams come true.
Once dropped off in New York, the dinosaurs help a boy called Louie and a girl named Cecilia find the circus after both running away from home. However, this circus turns out to be run by the Captain’s evil brother Professor Screweyes. This ringmaster villain puts the kids under contract and agrees to rip up the contract if the dinosaurs surrender back to their primitive selves for horror entertainment.
What can I even say about this movie? It’s infamous for being one of the most bonkers animated films ever made. The movie is a constant string of nonsensical madness being bombarded at the audience. Its a pretty simple story on the surface, but the execution is relentlessly exhausting in it’s delivery.
The best word I’d use to describe the film is “misguided”. What the movie THINKS is sensible or straight forward is actually quite weird and not well thought out. I’m sure that the filmmakers meant well, but I can’t shake off how they might have ended up getting carried away.
For example, the film tries to frame Captain Neweyes as this whimsical and good-hearted man, but when you really let his actions sink in, he’s just the lesser of two evils compared to his brother (Screweyes simply happens to be less subtle about his darkness). There’s applying fairy tale logic and ambiguity to create a mysterious character… then there’s accidentally writing the wise old man trope as someone as off-kilter as the villain. Yes, he’s trying to make children’s wishes come true using science, but at what cost?
Neweyes is a man who abducts dinosaurs and gives them human level intelligence without their consent. Not only is he tampering with time itself, but he’s also interfering with the laws of nature. He’s not a hero for his science efforts, he’s a nutjob playing God!
A soft-spoken voice and friendly demeanor doesn’t distract me from his unintentional menace. I mean, he has a machine that spies on children to see their wishes – which is more creepy than sweet (talk about invasion of privacy). Even his spaceship comes off as quite sinister due to it’s aggressive mechanical limbs.
Not to mention, he drops a bunch of dinosaurs into New York without educating them on earth customs or notifying the authorities. Everything he’s doing is either highly questionable or a recipe for disaster. This is a man who clearly didn’t think about the repercussions for his project, yet the film glosses over how dangerous this guy really is.
The film only has one musical number. Now, that may seem pretty normal, but it stands out way more in a film that’s non-stop unpredictable. It’s not the worst song I’ve heard, quite catchy even, but it’s not exactly necessary – especially when it exposes the dinosaurs as real to the public (the New Yorkers take a laughably long time to realise though).
This is a movie that maybe only 70 minutes long, but it spends ages trying to find it’s focus. The storytelling zigs-zags and somersaults to setup it’s premise. It then wastes so much time with pointless slapstick in the city, that we’re mainly left with filler until the kids get to the circus.
The film does actually get better when we reach the circus though. The energy calms down a bit in order to create a spooky atmosphere for Screweyes’ lair. However, this is also where we are given even MORE new information regarding the movie’s fantasy lore.
The overall animation is decently fluid and clearly high budgeted. Although, such qualities can’t make up for how over-the-top the visuals are. Good animation requires patient pauses and careful attention to detail.
No matter how comedic an animated film is supposed to be, controlled thought is required for the timing to work. There are some humanistic moments here or there, but you’ll only notice them when the pace chills down.
Now, even though I’ve been heavily criticising this film’s messy and misdirected execution, I want to make it clear that I don’t hate it. On the contrary, there’s no denying that this is a fascinating train wreck to watch. There’s a so-bad-it’s-good appeal to all the mayhem that I do enjoy.
Also, there’s actually some elements of the film that I legitimately appreciate. The kids are realistically naïve and I feel a little sorry for Cecilia being raised by neglectful parents (Louie’s reason for leaving home seems shallow in comparison though).
The dinosaurs themselves may lack strongly defined personalities, but I LOVE their eagerness to make kids happy, and was touched by how much they were willing sacrifice to protect Louie and Cecilia – who both love them just as much in return. It helps that these creatures are voiced by likable comic actors too.
There’s also a clown at the Circus that I found endearing, because he’s a good guy who can’t admit that his employer is an abusive user. He has a sincere passion for comedy that makes the children laugh at a dark time, but Screweyes doesn’t respect his efforts as a comedian.
Screweyes himself is a fantastically theatrical villain! A menacing figure who represents the very essence of stranger danger for kids watching the film. It is made clear that he applies horror gimmicks to his show in a bid to hide his own closeted fears. I even found myself feeling a little sorry for him after he was defeated, because he seems to be genuinely frightened about being alone, and his death is disturbingly ominous for a kids’ film.
To Conclude, “We’re Back! A Dinosaurs’ Story” is batsh*t insane! But the one thing I can’t call it is boring. It’s quite the experience! Having no regard for logic, sense, practicality, or natural pacing.
To some people, it’s a nostalgic fairy tale classic from their childhood. To others, it’s a terrible movie that annoys the hell out of them. I see it as a fun and strange ride that takes a lot of risky chances – with VERY mixed results.
This is the third time I’ve watched this film, and I still enjoyed it! Objectively, I can’t fairly say it’s an overall good movie, but it’s certainly one of my personal guilty pleasures! The perfect kind of nonsensical escapist entertainment that I need right now. There’s also something quite commendable about a film this broken managing to be surprisingly inspired at times.