T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous

With T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous, the Imax 3-D format continues to evolve toward narrative maturity, without bothering to ask whether viewers want it to. You'd think a cyberschlock director like Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity) would privilege in-your-face effects shots over hurried character development and emotional conflict.

Teenage Ally (Liz Stauber) is working on a science project whose theory that Tyrannosaurus rex was a nurturing, birdlike parent awkwardly parallels Ally's own yearning for a closer relationship with her work-obsessed paleontologist father (Peter Horton). Wandering the halls of the natural history museum, she imagines herself traveling back in time, talking shop with a couple of legendary fossil hunters and visiting T-rex in the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago. The film boasts the most scientifically accurate dinosaurs yet on screen, and when the money shots of pouncing lizards finally come, you'll be duly impressed and thrilled. The movie even conveys a hint of the awe that dino-diggers feel as they reach across the aeons. But before that, you'll be trying to swallow the treacly story and some undigested dollops of hard science and the history of paleontology while your inner eight-year-old whines, "Where are the dinosaurs?"

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