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‘We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story’ (G)

By Jane Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 25, 1993

How splendiferous to have the beasts of prehistory that so fascinate today's kids turn up in the present, all friendly and chatty and most emphatically not carnivorous. Steven Spielberg, creator of the bloodthirsty mega-hit "Jurassic Park," is co-executive producer of "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story." In this highly entertaining, relatively gentle animated feature, a pterodactyl, a T. rex, a triceratops and a hadrosaurus clomp through modern Manhattan and befriend a pair of lonely youngsters -- and those darn blase New Yorkers barely notice.

Handsomely drawn, and directed by a four-man crew at Spielberg's British-based animation studio, Amblimation, "We're Back!" looks good, though it lacks the gorgeous background detail of a Disney feature, or the heart-tugging romance of "The Little Mermaid" or "Beauty and the Beast." In "We're Back!," science may take the place of sentimentality, but the hot-dog-gulping triceratops fills the cute quotient just fine.

"We're Back!" takes a hip and politically correct approach, promoting everything from vegetarianism to a delicately nonsectarian prayer, "Let no bad happen."

Flash back a few epochs: A time-traveling scientist named Captain NewEyes (the gentle, authoritative voice -- and eyebrows -- of Walter Cronkite) meets up with four violent, stupid dinosaurs. NewEyes feeds them his experimental Brain Grain cereal, and poof! they're smart, articulate and pacifist: Rex, a tyrannosaur with a fireside voice reminiscent of der Bingle (John Goodman); Elsa ("pardon my wing span"), a flying pterodactyl (Felicity Kendall); Dweeb, a duck-billed hadrosaurus (Charles Fleischer, who also was the voice of Roger Rabbit); and Woog, an overweight triceratops (Rene LeVant).

Captain NewEyes sets his time machine for the Middle Future -- that's today -- and sends his dino graduates to meet a couple of lonely young Manhattanites who dream of dinosaurs: Louie (Joey Shea), a smart-mouth street kid, and Cecilia (Yeardley Smith), a poor little rich girl. Together, the kids and their buddies crash the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, draw the police into a high-speed chase, face down an evil scientist and wind up under the protection of an absent-minded professor.

But first, kids and dinos must neutralize nasty Professor ScrewEyes (Kenneth Mars), the evil brother of Captain NewEyes and an exploiter of people and animals at his Eccentric Circus, tucked in a shadowy corner of Central Park.

Some very young kids, probably those under 6, may be frightened of the live-action-style police chase and of Dr. ScrewEyes and his spooky circus.

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