Super Mario Bros.

Weekend Roundtable: Lamest Movie/TV Dinosaurs

Aside from the ‘Jurassic Park’ franchise, Hollywood has had a pretty checkered history of trying to depict dinosaurs in a convincing fashion. We highlighted our favorites in a previous Roundtable. Now let’s look at some of the cheesiest, dumbest, or just plain worst examples of dinosaurs on screen.

M. Enois Duarte

One movie that immediately comes to mind is the mind-numbingly awful 1994 sci-fi comedy ‘Tammy & the T-Rex‘, starring teenagers Denise Richards and Paul Walker. Before jumping into the laughably cheap special effects, we need to mention the absurdly stupid premise about a pair of star-crossed lovers whose relationship is swiftly brought to an end when new-boyfriend Michael (Walker) is mauled by a lion. The person responsible for his gruesome death is Tammy’s (Richards) violently jealous ex-boyfriend, but never mind a grieving teen or pursuing a murderer! Instead, look over here where a mad scientist (Terry Kiser of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ fame) miraculously transplants Michael’s brain inside a T-Rex, and of course, he’s bound to go searching for his former love.

Sadly, we live in a world where 65 million years of difference is enough to deny these two lovebirds from uniting and expressing a love that dare not speak its name. It’s basically your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy with a splash of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, only with a dinosaur and an oblivious teenage girl. There are plenty of other cheesy and downright terrible movies featuring prehistoric monsters, but the plot to this one is utterly batshit crazy!

Brian Hoss

The two things I remember about seeing ‘Meet the Robinsons‘ in the theater were that the 3D calibration was a little off, which made for some 3D fatigue about halfway through the movie, and that the T-Rex had by far the best moment in the movie when he lamented his “big head and little arms.” Having rewatched the movie this past year with my family, wow did I give the T-Rex too much credit. In spite of having that one funny line, the dinosaur is just another gizmo in this kitchen sink of a movie. Learning now that the dinosaur and painfully unfunny villain were added/expanded after test screenings, I can’t help but think that the movie must have been better before the changes.

Deirdre Crimmins

Though not traditional dinosaurs per se, the dino-headed goons in ‘Super Mario Bros.‘ have always given me the chills. They’re definitely intended as cheesy and are by all means inaccurate portrayals of actual dinosaurs, and they’re absolutely a terrible addition to an already foundering film. I understand that they’re supposedly adapted from the limited source material of a fairly simple video game. And I understand that the entire movie is generally well-intentioned but overall misguided. But even with all that said, these non-speaking, ever-smiling, scaly thugs are the things of my nightmares.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

At one point in 1969’s ‘The Mighty Gorga‘, screenwriter/director/guy-in-a-dime-store-ape-costume David L. Hewitt is pitted against a dinosaur hand puppet. I’ll torment you with an excerpt in a moment, but I feel obligated to point out two things first:

  1. Yes, this is an actual movie, and this T-Rex pops up several times throughout it.
  2. Hewitt went onto a career in special effects, including ‘Willow’ and ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’, not that there were any hints of that here:

Josh Zyber

At the tail end of the 1990s, my wife and I were vacationing and, with a couple hours to kill, wound up at an IMAX theater. Mrs. Z wanted to see a nature documentary, but I foolishly talked her into something called ‘T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous‘ instead. I had it in my mind that it’d be just like watching ‘Jurassic Park’, except with the stunning size and clarity of IMAX. Needless to say, I was wrong.

What we sat through was a really dumb YA fantasy about a precocious teenage girl whose father (top-billed Peter Horton, present in the movie for about three minutes) is a famous paleontologist. As a result of some magical nonsense, the girl is transported back in time to the Cretaceous era, where she has to defend a nest of baby T-Rexes from other carnivores, thus earning the respect and admiration of the mama T-Rex before returning back to the present day. The whole thing is about as inane as it sounds, and even the TV-grade CGI visual effects didn’t look particularly good in IMAX. It was a big waste of an hour and whatever inflated ticket prices we had to pay for it. Looking it up now, I see that the movie was directed by Brett Leonard, of the sci-fi cheesefests ‘The Lawnmower Man’ and ‘Virtuosity’. If I’d known that at the time, I might have chosen more wisely.

I also want to call out the brontosaurus stampede in Peter Jackson’s bloated 2005 remake of ‘King Kong‘, which sees live actors Jack Black, Adrien Brody and others running on treadmills in front of a green screen, pretending to duck and dodge between the legs of CGI dinosaurs animated around and on top of them. Not only do the VFX never integrate well, the scene is overlong, utterly pointless, and quite stupid. In other words, it’s a pretty good encapsulation of everything wrong with the rest of the movie as well.

Your Turn

Now you tell us your picks for the worst movie and TV dinosaurs.

17 comments

  1. Jon

    The dinosaurs from the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth. It’s painfully obvious the whole time that they’re lizards with fins glued to their backs and filmed in slow motion.

    • C.C.

      Other than stop motion and cell animation – there weren’t a lot of options at that time.
      I think movies from that period get a pass. I thought it was quite a clever idea.

  2. Csm101

    The dinosaurs from Terra Nova were pretty disappointing, considering how big budget the show supposedly was. Their movements looked weightless.

    • William Henley

      I don’t remember them being all that bad. Maybe I am just giving them a pass because its television. Then again, Kudos to you for even remembering this show.

  3. Charles Contreras

    As much as I liked the vintage Doctor Who series, Invasion of The Dinosaurs from 1974 comes to mind. I know the BBC had to work with what they had back then. Just imagine if they actually had a Tardis they could’ve went into the future with those vintage episodes and had today’s technical team make those special effect improvements.

    • William Henley

      The funny thing about this is that the modern Doctor Who, with much higher production value, keeps the look and feel of the old Doctor Who, so dinosaurs still look awful, but you know they are supposed to look awful. So this brings up the question – does it count as being awful if that is the look they were going for?

  4. Wikipedia on ‘T-Rex; Back to the Cretaceous’:

    “The film is among the few IMAX films that are considered “pure entertainment”, though it still is considered rather educational by the mainstream audience.”

    Pure entertainment, Josh, pure entertainment. Were you not entertained?!

  5. William Henley

    Okay, I am going there. Barney! He’s purple and lovable!

    Seriously, though, there’s several bad ones out there, but a lot of it is from low budget productions where they purposely look bad (as in they knew they couldn’t produce anything convincing, so instead went out of their way to make it look laughably bad). That is how I feel about Super Mario Bros – I remember seeing concept art (I cannot remember where) and they were supposed to look like that. The really bad dinos in Doctor Who are supposed to look like that.

    It’s almost like you are not going to put dinos in a movie or tv show unless you are going for a corney look. Unless you are Jurassic Park.

  6. Elizabeth

    Every Jurassic Park sequel. It doesn’t matter how good the CGI dinos look when the story is garbage. And every JP sequel has been progressively lamer than the last. I haven’t seen Fallen Kingdom but nothing about the trailers indicates that it doesn’t follow this trend.

  7. Nestor

    My pic is Carnosaur. I remember seeing on the VHS sleeve (the good ol’ Blockbuster days!) how Gene Siskel enjoyed it and we all know that this movie came out the same year as Jurassic Park so I HAD to watch Carnosaur. Man, that movie was so lame, I really have no idea what Siskel was thinking about when he recommended it. The special effects were just terrible, especially when you compare it to Jurassic Park.

    I wasn’t able to finish the movie as I just found it unbearable. I was a teenager back then I really had no idea who Roger Corman was, so i was expecting a blockbuster and not a cheesy B-movie. Maybe I’ll get to it at some point.

    • Csm101

      I kind of felt the same way as you when I was younger about these shlockfests, but now I’ve been praying to the bluray Gods for an awesome release of these films.

  8. That awful 90s TV Sitcom “The Dinosaurs” by far. Nothing could be more repulsive. When people bring it up I know that they were either 8 years old when it came out or not intelligent.

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