United States – 1995
Director – Jonathan Betuel
New Line Home Video, 1996, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 32 minutes
Sometimes in the process of poisoning my mind with all these films I stumble across one that, despite its relative availability, just demands closer inspection. After watching Theodore Rex, there are a lot of things going through my mind. It’s a mess of confusion and wonderment up there, a jumble of emotion, fright, anger and even some sadness. I feel a little bit dirty. In case you are too young, have forgotten, or never had the pleasure of knowing at all, I’ll give you a quick refresher on the plot. In a nominally sci-fi future dystopia, detective Katie Coltrane (Whoopi Goldberg) partners with a bumbling, human-sized talking Tyrannosaurus Rex (“Teddy”) to solve the murders of several other dinosaurs. Much “hilarity” ensues. However, there is something much more problematic here than the fact that a talking dinosaur has just been given a job as a cop.
On the surface Teddy is an “adult” who drinks, chases women and has a job. But because he talks, dresses and acts like a child, he is the film’s demographic selling point and titular hero. Despite, or perhaps because of, his best efforts to channel Axel Foley, our “hero” is given all the attributes of the constantly frightened or mistake-prone sidekick. The subsequent hour and a half wallows in the resentment of his human counterparts. They make no secret of their contempt when such an obviously inferior creature is given a toy job on the police force in order to placate dino-rights activists, (I’m not making this shit up.) Even Whoopi uses the closet-bigot’s time honored phrase “you people,” (errr, dinosaurs.) In this light, we must recall that Theodore Rex is a product of the decade that gave us such PC Tokenism as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the backlash against Affirmative Action. As such, its bitterness towards childlike-adults (read: the mentally handicapped) reeks of the sort of recrimination familiar to an artist forced to sacrifice his aesthetic vision on the altar of commercial viability. Beneath its kiddie, buddy-cop exterior, Theodore Rex is an agonized cry of outrage at the decline of that great imperialist institution, “meritocracy”.