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?

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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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