05/29/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
At the age of 5, after seeing Disney's Pinocchio for the first time, I suffered nightmares for two solid months as I recalled Wooden Boy's ingestion into the whale. Unless kids today are a tougher breed, Dinosaur will leave 'em whimpering in their dreams for a year. Not for nothing does the movie carry a PG rating; parents should take heed and think twice before carting along anyone still too young to spell Tyrannosaurus rex.
What's so terrifying? The mean, meat-eating dinosaurs with snapping jaws full of big, sharp teeth who constantly chase the nice vegetarian dinosaurs and their cute little lemur pals. The fiery meteor showers that devastate the island paradise where our dino hero, Aladar, lives with his lemur friends. And scary Kron, the scaly, Darwinian dinosaur leader who believes that if the weak fall behind and die, so be it.
The visually impressive but dramatically uninspired Dinosaur is essentially a tale of exodus. Back 65 million years ago in the Cretaceous period, Aladar, an iguanodon, is adopted while still a hatchling by a family of monkey-like lemurs. (The movie's early scenes echo Tarzan, with the lemurs trying to figure out who this strange new creature is and the male lemur boss arguing against taking it in, while the kindly lemur matriarch clutches the baby dino to her chest.) After meteor showers destroy their island, Aladar and his surviving lemur buds head for the mainland and join a herd of dinosaurs lumbering through a parched desert in search of water and a nesting ground. Aladar now finds himself pitted against Kron, a tyrant who brooks no dissent. Good guy Aladar advocates cooperation, group effort and the strong helping the weak. Guess who prevails?
Dinosaur's dazzling dinos are created by sophisticated computer-generated imagery set against live-action shots of majestic landscapes. Voices are provided by D.B. Sweeney as Aladar, Julianna Margulies as his dino girlfriend (who boasts cheekbones a supermodel would envy), Alfre Woodard, Ossie Davis, Max Casella and Hayden Panettiere
as the lemurs, Samuel E. Wright as Kron, and Joan Plowright and Delia Reese as two wise, elderly dinosaurs. (PG)
Bottom Line: Bigger isn't always better