Chie is a lonely young girl, never really fitting in at school after her mother's abandonment. Her archaeologist father decides a good way of cheering the girl up and getting her back in spirits is to take her on a new expedition, following a clue that may lead to living dinosaurs. The trip is a success, and the team find an egg, which Chie is able to hatch. Out from the egg comes Rex, a cute dinosaur that immediately bonds with the girl. They become quick friends, but a criminal group are determined to steal this unique 'prize', and Chie must protect Rex, and stop their plans...
Rex: Dinosaur Story is an underappreciated gem here in the west! I have a fairly decent knowledge of Japanese kaiju cinema, but this went totally under my radar, and I am disappointed in myself for not having seen it sooner! It is many things-Cute, emotional, engaging, and more. The film is a little long, and some might get a little impatient with its 106 minute runtime, but it never dragged too much for me. I was surprised by how quickly it moved!
The first act has a great adventure vibe, reminiscent of Godzilla vs. Mothra. It was a similar modern day meets the ancient world of magic and monsters. I was a little sad to see it end, but the movie never stays stuck on one thing for too long. From here on, the movie takes a more down-to-eath vibe, when the egg hatches thanks to Chie's help, and she is chosen to raise young Rex herself.
Chie is a great protagonist. She is sweet, clever, and responsible. She's a great carer for dinosaur babies! I also liked how realistically she is written. She finds Rex cute, but what does she do when she steps in a pile of dino crap? She screams! Any child would! I would!
Rex is a great little dino. He is a perfect pet, and shows why dinosaurs are a girl's best friend! He's believably animalistic, while also being friendly and cute enough to make for a great companion. It's interesting seeing his development, which is done in a way you don't often see. How often do you see a dinosaur toilet trained!
The core of the film is Chie's relationship with her absent mother, and boy is she a piece of work! She had no desire to raise or even have anything to do with a child, so she just fobbed her baby off onto her husband, dumped him, and buggered off to New York. When she returns, she ignores Chie, and makes it clear she's not here to visit her family, only to work.
Her ex quite rightfully puts her in her place, and sees right through all the bullshit, and tells her she chose to abandon your child. Then she responds with the jawdropping "Don't judge me based on the idea that mothers put their kids first". Jesus, lady! That'd be a psychotic thing for anyone to say, but even moreso when your daughter is the cutest girl in all Japan!
She continues along this line for much of the movie, and the judgmental bitch tries throwing Chie's words in her face. Luckily her daughter proves to be the better person by far.
Naturally you just know she'll learn her lesson and suddenly change her ways and start being a mother again. Thankfully the way it happens all makes sense, and it doesn't feel forced or unearned either. I still didn't like her, but I didn't feel she was being rewarded for bad behaviour either.
The villains are an amusing bunch, although I was a little confused when the short-statured gang leader didn't turn out to be the main villain, but just another henchman. The real villain's identity wasn't a bad choice, and made sense, even if it was a bit of a bummer.
The last act to Dinosaur Story is very engaging. There's a nice Christmas setting, some good gags, and a chase sequence, leading to the effective climax. It's a happy but emotional conclusion, which may leave some audience members with less than dry eyes.
The ending is a little confusing, since it's divided in two halves, separated by some end credits. If you're not careful you might switch the movie off early and not catch the real conclusion!
Dinosaur Story is a fantastic looking film, on all counts. The effects themselves are great. Rex sometimes looks a little plasticky, but is otherwise convincing, and adorable! The sets are wonderful, often with plenty of detail, despite only being onscreen for short periods. Then here are all the natural locations, which are breathtaking! Part of this is down to the superb direction, but these places just look so magical.
The music is lovely, with some very sweet scoring throughout. Tomoyuki Asakawa does a great job in setting the scene, and the emotions, without being cloying at all.
The cast here is a good one. Yumi Adachi does a good job, and is so adorable! She alone helps the movie excel so much. Someone and Shinobu Otake are good as the parents, each with their radically different personalities. The remainder of the cast are fine (just a shame the credits don't say who's playing who!). A little goofy in places, but never bad. The animal cast members are worthy of praise too, especially with their interactions with the Rex model!
Rex: Dinosaur Story is a perfect movie to put on during the Christmas season, as well as a great movie period, for any occasion.
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