An unusual buddy/cop picture aimed at the kid crowd, "Theodore Rex" has gained considerable industry notoriety since its rocky inception. Scandals aside, what's finally on view is a bloated youth-appeal picture with disappointing effects and a very thin story. Production values notwithstanding, it has the feel of a direct-to-video title perfect for babysitting duties.

An unusual buddy/cop picture aimed at the kid crowd, “Theodore Rex” has gained considerable industry notoriety since its rocky inception. Scandals aside, what’s finally on view is a bloated youth-appeal picture with disappointing effects and a very thin story. Production values notwithstanding, it has the feel of a direct-to-video title perfect for babysitting duties.

Reportedly budgeted at $ 35 million (it doesn’t look it), pic was put in the express lane to video after New Line tested the film theatrically in three cities earlier this year.

It opens commercially in France this week, but one shouldn’t expect great results there.

This is one T. rex that won’t be spared the tar pits. The tale is set in the near future when the world’s atmosphere proves quite inhospitable for most vegetation and animals. Curiously, the inhabitants don’t appear to notice, judging from the absence of protective clothing or face masks.

Katie Coltrane (Whoopi Goldberg), a wisecracking, authority-phobic cop, is assigned to investigate the murder of a dinosaur. Genetic science has brought back the prehistoric beasts and provided them with vocal chords, education and athletic shoes. As a sort of punishment, Katie gets teamed with another dino — the first to be made a detective.

Pic’s major misstep is the bygone creature. The filmmakers serve up a man in a monster suit a la the “Dinosaurs” TV series, when the post-“Jurassic” era demands something more sophisticated and computer-generated.

Writer-director Jonathan Betuel goes for the cute and cuddly. That chafes badly with the flip Goldberg (looking very constrained in a leather jumpsuit) and Armin Mueller-Stahl as the urbane mad scientist who turned back the clock and is scheming to create a new ice age.

It probably didn’t help matters that Goldberg backed out of the film and agreed to the role only after legal action was initiated.

Theodore Rex

Production

A New Line Cinema release in association with J&M Entertainment of a Shooting Star Entertainment production. Produced by Richard Abramson, Sue Baden-Powell. Executive producer, Stefano Ferrari. Directed, written by Jonathan Betuel.

Crew

Camera (color), David Tattersall; editors, Rick Shaine, Steve Mirkovich; music, Robert Folk; production design, Walter Martishius; art direction, Bo Johnson; costume design, Mary Vogt; sound (Dolby), James Webb; dinosaurs, Criswell Prods.; visual effects supervisor, Robert Habros; assistant director, Barry Thomas; casting, Elisabeth Leustig. Reviewed on videocassette, L.A., June 27, 1996. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Katie Coltrane - Whoopi Goldberg
Dr. Edgar Kane - Armin Mueller-Stahl
Dr. Shade - Juliet Landau
Splinter - Bud Cort
Edge - Stephen McHattie
Commissioner Lynch - Richard Roundtree
Voice of Theodore Rex - George Newbern
Voice of Molly Rex - Carol Kane
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