Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

 A long time ago children, long before you had your ‘Sopranos’, ‘Battlestar Galacticas’ or your ‘24’s’ and the like, there was a little television network in the late seventies and the early eighties called ‘NBC’. During this time period this television station distributed shows that were so bad that I believe there was doubt that they would actually survive, and this was before most people had cable TV so you actually had to make a concerted effort to avoid these shows. We talking about shows like ‘Manimal’, ‘The Man from Atlantis’, ‘The Sword of Justice’ and ‘Hello Larry’ that lasted only a few episodes and were considered the worst of the worst, but yet as a child, I watched them passionately, and it is an addiction to subpar entertainment that I have yet been able to break to this very day. Then out of the blue I see the trailer on some crap movie I was watching to this movie ‘Anonymous Rex’, a Sci-Fi channel original from 20-04 that somehow slipped past me back then. A movie that completely and totally captured the glorious spirit of pre-Cosby NBC, Simon McCorkindale and ‘Manimal’ like no other show before it… and that’s not an altogether bad thing.

Little did we know that when that meteor that allegedly hit the earth eons ago and blackened the skies, sending the planet into its ice age, the dinosaurs were not completely wiped out. No sir, a large number of them survived and they walk among us to this day, working at your delicatessen’s, putting out our fires, driving our children to school and snapping the necks of anybody human who is unfortunate enough to uncover their existence. This is were we meet a pair of private dicks in Ernie Watson (Daniel Baldwin) and his partner Vincent Rubio (Sam Trammell) who will serve as our tour guide through this newly revised history of the dinosaur. Admittedly this history was glossed over a bit because I think this was supposed to be a pilot for a TV series down the road, but we are still educated enough, and educated in quite a clever and original way to be honest with you.

However the movie isn’t really about how or why the dinosaur walks among us as this is meant to be an accepted premise. This movie is a mystery yarn surrounding the alleged suicide of Ernie’s girlfriend’s brother and what our private detectives discover unraveling this mystery. You see not all the dinosaurs are happy hiding who they are, having to live a lie and cater to the ways of the ‘apes’ as they like to call the Homosapien. Self-help dinosaur guru Circe (Tamara Gorski) preaches to her dinosaur brethren to love who you are or some nonsense along those lines, while her more radical partner Raal (Alex Van Spring) is escalating matters considerably to force all dinos to expose themselves, and basically start a war between the apes and his woefully outnumbered dinosaurs. There are other issues such as Ernie’s lovely young daughter Gabrielle (Stephanie Lemelin) who is hiding a terrible secret and Vince’s internal conflict into siding with the radicals or averting certain slaughter. Decisions, decisions.

Though ‘Anonymous Rex’ did have the look and feel of one of those wacky early 80’s whackass NBC drama’s, it had a tone that was more along the lines of the ‘Alien Nation’ television series as the characters were dealing with a lot of issues similar to the characters in that old TV show. And like that old TV show, despite one of the more 'out there' premises this side of ‘Cop Rock’, ‘Anonymous Rex’ was surprisingly pretty darned entertaining. Now we have all seen some Sci-Fi original movies which have left much to be desired, and that’s being incredibly kind to say the least, but probably the thing that keeps ‘Anonymous Rex’ from sinking into that sea of Sci-Fi dreck is that this production managed to grab a fairly high end director in Julian Jarrold who has crafted some fine films including ‘Kinky Boots’ and ‘Becoming Jane’ just to name a few. Jarrold obviously knows what he’s doing in regards to pacing and framing a movie and not even for an instant is the premise in this film played as a joke or taken lightly. Top that off with a script, with just a little uncovering, is actually pretty heady in that it integrates real world issues such as racism, depression, nationalism and all other kinds of isms into its tale. The cast was solid if not undistinguished, but they did manage to enroll Faye Dunaway and the late Isaac Hayes as members of the mysterious ‘council’ of dinosaurs which raises the cache of any production.

A few things do hold back the production as the dinosaur special effects were surprisingly sparse, considering this was a movie about dinosaurs, and what few effects that were there were lacking at best belying the films budget. Some of the dialog was suspect to the point of being laughable at times and the narrative was a bit sketchy around the edges, but we can assume that the plan was to fill all that stuff in once this thing got picked up as a regular series, which obviously didn’t happen.

We can only guess that ‘Anonymous Rex’ didn’t make it as a series because it strayed to far from the novels it was based on, which always upset fans, and also because the concept probably seemed just to silly for those who are unfamiliar with author Eric Garcia’s books. And also the tele-films ratings were awful. Nonetheless, I found ‘Anonymous Rex’ smartly entertaining despite the somewhat whacky premise and considerable budget limitations.

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