Dinosaur

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Dinosaur

For five amazing minutes—the same five minutes previewed in theaters last winter—Dinosaur is everything it should be. A wordless setpiece following the journey of an imperiled dinosaur egg allows Disney to unveil a spectacular new animated process mixing computer animation and filmed backdrops while surveying what seems to be the whole of prehistoric creation. It's a great moment, but it ends the instant a beautifully rendered lemur opens its mouth, turning Dinosaur into just another Disney movie, and not a very compelling one at that. D.B. Sweeney provides the voice of the protagonist, a goodhearted dinosaur raised in a loving two-lemur (Alfre Woodard and Ossie Davis) household on an isolated island. A cataclysmic meteor shower ends their cross-phyla idyll, however, and forces Sweeney and friends to join a highly marketable selection of dinosaurs on a journey to find an oasis left intact by the storm. Some jerky spots aside, the animation is spectacular throughout, and Dinosaur rarely shies away from presenting a vision of nature as red in tooth and claw as a PG-rated film will allow. But who knew that dinosaurs, just like countless animated characters before them, needed instruction in the value of sharing and caring? Once Sweeney joins the caravan, he's forced into conflict with a non-sharing/non-caring herd leader (Samuel E. Wright) and into a romance with his rival's sister (Julianna Margulies). From there, it's pretty much business as usual, thankfully minus the singing. But, while we're spared the spectacle of crooning dinosaurs, that still leaves Max Casella's Nathan Lane-ish turn as a comically inept lemur and an abundance of overly contemporary dialogue to supply the sort of cringes usually relegated to Elton John, Tim Rice, Matthew Wilder, and the like. A major achievement in animation that's decidedly minor in every other respect, Dinosaur needs to be seen to be believed, then takes about an hour to be forgotten.

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