Variety called it ”the Heaven’s Gate of straight-to-video fare.” Its star, Whoopi Goldberg, tried to bail out before filming began. At $35 million, it’s one of the most expensive films to debut on cassette. But the question isn’t how Theodore Rex went so bad; it’s how anyone thought it could be any good. Consider the selling points: Goldberg as a futuristic cop in a black skintight jumpsuit; an animatronic dinosaur as her bumbling partner; a murder mystery involving a mad scientist (Armin Mueller-Stahl); and a message about interspecies equality. The creatures are second-class citizens — the laughs are supposed to come from Goldberg’s culture clashes with the dino demimonde and her costar’s breaking things with his tail. Writer-director Jonathan Betuel (My Science Project) was aiming for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. What he got was Howard the Duck.
Confined to a handful of hermetic sets, Theodore Rex‘s juvenile insults and comic violence are designed to camouflage slapdash storytelling and sleep-inducing dialogue. Adults may get a perverse kick out of seeing such ’70s cult stars as Richard Roundtree (Shaft), Bud Cort (Harold and Maude), and Joe Dallesandro (Andy Warhol’s Trash) in a family film. They certainly won’t get one from Whoopi, who seems animatronic herself. The Heaven’s Gate of home video? Rex should be so lucky. At least Gate had scenery. And nobody farted. D