There's a very good reason Walt Disney has cornered the market when it comes to animated features. Artistic excellence and musical savvy aside, the company's strongest suit is its understanding that a successful animated feature should delight adults as much as it does their offspring.
To his credit, Steven Spielberg is a kid at heart. When it comes to the Saturday matinee motion picture romp, nobody does it better. But when it comes to animation, he bites.
"We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story," the fourth Spielberg-produced animated feature and second from his still-fledgling company Amblimation, shares the same faults as its three predecessors: "An American Tail," "The Land Before Time," and "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West."
While the littlest of kids will find the amusement value high (about the equivalent of, say, an empty cardboard box) the older kids and adults will be bored unconscious.
Based on Hudson Talbott's children's story, "We're Back" aims to capitalize on the dinosaur craze.
Walter Cronkite is the voice of Captain NewEyes, an eccentric genius who plucks a foursome of dinos from prehistory, raises their IQs with a high-tech breakfast cereal called Brain Grain and offers them the chance to grant the wishes of modern-day children.
With the help of his wish radio, the good captain has determined that dinos are just the ticket to cheer up today's tots. The cheerful lizards, who not only have become smarter, but also cuter and less vicious-looking, happily agree.
But the Captain's evil brother, Professor ScrewEyes (the voice of Kenneth Mars) wants the creatures for his Eccentric Circus, a bizarre big top designed to scare its patrons.
Talent is wasted left and right. Voice actors John Goodman, Rhea Perlman and terrific vocal artist Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit) are shackled with insipid dialogue and few opportunities to shine.
Terrific ideas, like Professor ScrewEyes' fear of radio, a device that tunes in the fears of children, go by unnoticed in this colorful mess of a movie that's completely lacking in wit, emotion, memorable music and, most importantly, magic.
"We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story"
Featuring voices of John Goodman, Walter Cronkite, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Julia Child
Directed by Phil Nibblelink, Simon Wells, Dick and Ralph Zondag