St John Karp

Ramblings of an Ornamental Hermit

“Theodore Rex” (1996)

Theodore Rex title.

For tonight’s movie night Parker was in the mood for some 90s crap, so I cracked my knuckles and said, “Hold my beer.” One after the other he turned down Hudson Hawk, Big Trouble in Little China, The Bronx Warriors, and Dollman. Then I mentioned Theodore Rex and he leapt at it.

Whoopi Goldberg.
Whoopi Goldberg clearly does not want to be here. She has this look on her face for the whole movie.

Those of you who aren’t familiar with this gorgeous train wreck will need a quick run-down before we get too much further. It’s the future. Whoopi Goldberg is a tough, no-nonsense kind of cop. She gets paired up with a goofy dinosaur in the buddy-cop movie no-one asked for. Honestly, that’s all you need to know about the plot itself, but it is worth knowing at the start of the film that Whoopi Goldberg tried to get out of it but they sued her to keep her in the film. So in every scene of the movie, just think to yourself “She doesn’t want to be here.” You can see the pain in her eyes.

Theodore Rex on the telephone.
Yeah, ducky, that’s not where your ear is.

Me: Are we really going to watch this? It’s famously bad.

Parker: Has that ever stopped us? Oh my god, listen to this review: “protagonists who act more like asstagonists”. At least I assume that’s what they meant, it actually says “a**”, not “ass”.

Me: What, so they might actually be abstagonists? Or armtagonists?

Written and directed by Jonathan Betuel.

Me: Written and directed by Jonathan Betuel. This guy’s letting himself in for a lot of blame. What’s the bet he originally wanted it to be a gritty cop film and the studio said, “But what if it’s a dinosaur,” and suddenly he’s making this.

'Blade Runner' style sets.

Parker: I think someone watched Blade Runner and wanted to put a dinosaur in it.

Parker’s not wrong either. From the sets to the costumes, this whole movie has a strong Blade Runner vibe. They even go to find an Asian hermit who makes highly sophisticated robots in his lab. Incompetent film-making and plagiarism! What a twofer.

Whoopi Goldberg loses her shit.

Then there’s this bit where Goldberg cracks up in the middle of a shot, and I swear to got this is an outtake that they just decided to leave in the movie. I don’t blame them, it’s the only scene where Goldberg looks like she’s having any fun.

Fallopian tubes.

Why are the bad guys’ headquarters in this giant set of fallopian tubes? Or are they hairy testicles? Kind of hard to tell.

A kid gets kidnapped by someone hiding inside an arcade game.
A kid gets kidnapped by someone hiding inside an arcade game. Ah, that old ploy. I should have seen it coming a mile away.

Parker: I had a film teacher who said that if you hide under your housemate’s desk and jump out at him when he comes home, that’s a jump scare, but if you hide under his desk and watch him for hours while he’s asleep, that’s horror.

Me: So what are you saying? If you hide in an arcade game and grab a kid, that’s a jump scare, but if you hide inside an arcade game and watch him play then that’s horror?

The only Asian character in the film.

Can we talk about the low-level racism and homophobia in this movie? There’s a dinosaur called “Tina” who’s clearly a gay male stereotype. There’s a really shitty Mexican impression that I thought went out with Speedy Gonzales. The only Asian character is wearing this massively unsubtle samurai outfit, and when they meet him Theodore immediately calls him a “girly boy” for having long hair. For a movie with a large black cast and that’s got a strong racial allegory (along the same lines as Zootopia), this is surprisingly tone-deaf. Like when Goldberg’s character doesn’t want to work with a dinosaur, she gets told she’s being “species-ist.” There’s something obscene about a white man telling a black woman she’s a racist.

A henchwoman holding a syringe.
“One little prick and you’ll wake up in paradise.”

Me: Heyyyo, I’ve used that line before! I wonder if they threw that in there for the parents.

Parker: Any time there’s a stupid set-up that comes back later, you’ll see it.

Me: You say it like I’m the stupid whisperer.

Parker: You can just see bad writing because it’s the obvious thing and it’s what you wouldn’t do.

Bud Cort as a henchman.

It’s Bud Cort playing one of the henchmen! Can I just say he’s great casting in this. He might be the best thing in this film because he’s the only one who looks like he’s having fun. Whoopi Goldberg is great in everything, but she obviously doesn’t want to be here. For that matter, neither do I.

The Skinny

Theodore Rex gets in a scuffle with some bodyguards.
Is he getting dragged out by those bodyguards, or is he coming? I feel like we’ve interrupted a private moment.

“It reeks of imperfection.”

Hoo boy. What can you say about this? So much has been said already, and there’s absolutely no point in trying to evaluate it by the standards of a proper movie. It just is, whether you like it or not, take it on its own terms or leave it to rot. Parker thought this might be the worst movie he’s ever seen, but I disagree — at least this is noteworthy. The worst movies are the ones that are so boring you can’t sit through them and Theodore Rex is certainly not that, but it’s not good either. We looked up Jonathan Betuel and he looks exactly like the kind of person who would make this. Turns out this movie also killed his career stone dead — he never worked in TV or movies again.