Beasts and Beefcake
Twelve years and $200 million in the making, the debut feature from Disney's digital studio finally lumbers into view, clutching in its jaws a Newsweek cover story promising that "the hearts of millions of little boys and girls are going to race at this bone-crunching spectacle." The wee bairns certainly deserve more blood and entrails floating in their ciné-soup, but inappropriate gushing notwithstanding, Dinosaur cuts a bland, compliant figure, its narrative and characterizations subservient to splashy feats of CGI legerdemain. Aladar (voiced by D.B. Sweeney), an orphaned dinosaur raised by lemurs, is the Moses/Tarzan figure who battles Darwinian tyrant Kron (Samuel E. Wright) for command over a massive group of refugees searching for water and grazing land; thus Dinosaur amounts to 80 minutes of discouraged Cretaceous trudging, punctuated by the occasional fight or stampede and one pyrotechnic coup: a truly thrilling meteor shower. Aladar and the rest move robotically, their facial movements apparently patterned after Teddy Ruxpin's, but their skin and musculature have the every-nook-and-cranny resolution of a really boss video game, as do the deft meldings of real landscapes with computerized imagery. Dinosaur takes one more earth-shaking step toward a movie world computer-generated by George Lucas clones, in which technology is not the handmaiden of storytelling but the domineering bride. Where are those humanist wizards at Pixar when you need them?
Cirque du Soleil's campy, crackbrained, and in no way unenjoyable 3-D IMAX pageant Journey of Man might be the oddest movie offering of the year so far. Guided by hilariously solemn voice-over (Man is an old English guy), the voyage begins in the midst of dry ice and bare-chested Fabio look-alikes banging on drums; a child in a hooded white bodysuit emerges from the smoke and, eventually, ends up in a forest dressed in Dickensian-scamp raiment and led about by two clowns babbling in Teletubbese. Later, another shirtless hunk of beefcake spins a cube on his head (narrator: "My childhood dreams were behind me"); at a pool deck some Greek statues perform gravity-defying yoga ("I had found love, and had to own its secret"); back home in Man's mansion-cum-museum-cum-seraglio, dozens of cute boys leap out from behind red velvet curtains and do gymnastics ("Occasionally, doubts and troubles invaded my seclusion"). Kitschy theme-park kid stuff or agreeably deranged coming-out tale? With that 3-D headset, can you go wrong either way?
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