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Imax's 'T-Rex' Unleashes Dinosaurs in Stunning 3-D


The 3-D headgear may make you feel like Rick Moranis in "Spaceballs," or Michael Dukakis peeking out of a tank, but the experience of Imax technology is a trip. And we mean it.

What else do you call a film in which the heroine sniffs dino-dust and starts having hallucinations inhabited by hadrosaurs, pterodactyls and--ta da!--Tyrannosaurus rex? In "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous," a nose full of prehistoric powder sends the not-quite-happy Ally (Liz Stauber) on a mind-bender into lizard land, which may or may not be family entertainment.

The technology of Imax has gotten so good that "T-Rex" is often quite stunning: When a hammer-wielding paleontologist sends stone chips flying at your face, you duck. But the expense of the production, presumably, seems to dictate that the movies be as mainstream as possible and geared toward family audiences that want to be educated as well as entertained, so they can feel they got the most for their dollar (especially for films that are less than feature-length). This is not to say that Imax should be going the sex-and-violence route, but there's a certain amount of dramatic entropy that results when you want to be as palatable as possible to as many viewers as possible.

Of course, if you're properly engrossed in the 3-D imagery, you're not listening to the narration anyway, which involves Ally, a child of divorce whose world-renowned paleontologist father Donald Hayden (Peter Horton) keeps leaving her behind when he embarks on his bone-hunting trips.

Wandering around the museum in which he has his offices, Ally knocks a dinosaur egg off her father's desk (why it's perched there is certainly a question) and the resulting vapors knock Ally for a loop.

Ally walks in and out of the Cretaceous period, rescuing a T. rex egg from a predator, seeing the comet-induced nuclear holocaust that wiped the dinosaurs out and bumping into both Charles Knight (Tuck Milligan), the celebrated dinosaur illustrator of the '20s, and Barnum Brown (Laurie Murdoch), "the most famous bone hunter in history." The scenery is spectacular, and director Brett Leonard creates the right situations--Donald and an assistant rappelling down a cliff face, for instance--to best exploit the 3-D properties of the film.

It's a totalitarian medium, though, sort of like something out of "A Clockwork Orange." The Imax camera makes you look where it wants you to, because the point of focus is small. Enjoying the background when a character is speaking, therefore, can be uncomfortable. The Imax technology may be further improved at some time so that this isn't a factor. Or we'll just have to train ourselves in the proper way to watch an Imax movie, because it seems to be sticking around.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: It's a little scary and very involving in 3-D. Plan accordingly.

'T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous'

Peter Horton: Dr. Donald Hayden

Liz Stauber: Ally Hayden

Kari Coleman: Elizabeth Sample

Laurie Murdoch: Barnum Brown

Tuck Milligan: Charles Knight

An Imax Film Distribution presentation. Directed by Brett Leonard. Executive producer Andrew Gellis. Screenplay by Andrew Gellis and Jeanne Rosenberg. Story by Andrew Gellis and David Young. Producers Antoine Compin and Charis Horton. Co-producer Michael Lewis. Director of photography Andrew Kitzanuk. Editor Jonathan Shaw. Music by William Ross. Stereographer and camera operator Noel Archambault. Technical advisor Dr. Philip Currie. Running time: 45 minutes.

* Exclusively at Edwards Imax 3-D Cinemas, Irvine Spectrum, 65 Fortune, Irvine, (949) 450-4900; and Edwards Imax 3-D Theatre, Ontario Stadium 22, intersection of interstates 10 and 15, Ontario, (909) 476-1500.

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