There has been many a Buddy Cop movie over the years, from the likes of Lethal Weapon and Tango and Cash to less than stellar attempts such as Cop and a Half and Top Dog, the latter pairing Chuck Norris with a sheepdog, but when it comes to Buddy-Cop films there is one film that stands apart from all others and that would be Theodore Rex, a film that was billed as a comedy but was anything but funny. And just how bad did things go? Well, it took a lawsuit and a couple of extra million dollars to get Whoopi Goldberg to even show up on set.
With Theodore Rex, we get a movie that right from start shoots itself in the foot by opening with a long narration that basically explains the entire plot of the movie, as well as who the villains are, which is a strange thing to do in a film that is about a murder mystery, as such this opening should have come with a spoiler warning. “Once Upon a Time in the Future. At midnight billionaire Elizar Kane will launch his New Eden missile to bring on another Ice Age. After mankind is extinct, Kane will reanimate the pairs of all the Earth’s animals he keeps frozen in his Ark and create his vision of paradise,” clearly, writer/director Jonathan Betuel must have skipped that day at film school when they were taught “Show don’t tell” but it gets worse as the narration keeps going on to explain more of the plot, “One hour ago, two workers escaped from New Eden and are racing to tell the police about Kane’s Master Plan.” It’s at this point I started to wonder if we were to be taking notes.
We are then introduced to police detective Katie Coltrane (Whoopi Goldberg) a cybernetically enhanced police officer who “plays by her own rules” and she is paired with an anthropomorphic Tyrannosaurus named Theodore Rex (George Newbern) to find out who murdered a local dinosaur – he was one of the whistleblowers but the script really makes none of this clear despite that stupid opening narration – and the reason Rex, who was a public relations liaison with the police, was given this upgrade to “Temporary Detective” is to boost the polling numbers of Police Commissioner Lynch (Richard Roundtree) by this idiotic PR stunt. Of course, this was suggested by Lynch’s aide (Peter Mackenzie), who is secretly working for Elizar Kane (Armin Mueller-Stahl), and he believes that this will ensure that the murder will not be solved in time to thwart his boss’s evil plan. We also have Elizar Kane’s top henchman Edge (Stephen McHattie) working with a local gang of Zap Heads to keep tabs on the cops to ensure that they don’t get too close, and if any of that sounds like nonsensical gibberish to you then you are starting to get a grasp of what is wrong with this film.
What follows is a hodgepodge of scenes and bad jokes that even the most generous of moviegoers couldn’t call a plot and with most of the comedy, either dealing with Teddy being clumsy with his giant tail and a bunch of your standard fart jokes, you kind of get what is expected. What’s even sadder is that it’s not enough that the case our heroes are on never really goes anywhere, not to mention the fact that it’s already been solved by that opening narration, but we also get subplots dealing with an urban youth who wants Coltrane to hook up with his dad and a dinosaur nightclub singer (Carol Kane) that Teddy has the hots for and neither of these adds anything positive to the proceedings, other than to ensure that the runtime of the film reaches 90-minutes. The only actors to truly escape this disaster would be George Newborn and Carol Kane as they were lucky enough to only provide voice work for the film while the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Armin Mueller-Stahl were forced to appear on screen.
• A dinosaur is murdered by an exploding butterfly which could be a nod to Ray Bradbury’s classic dinosaur story “The Sound of Thunder” where a butterfly is accidentally killed by time travellers and the world is radically changed by it, but I’m probably giving this film way too much credit.
• A scientist not only brings back dinosaurs but he makes anthropomorphic versions of them that are then somehow integrated into society, I’d love to see the Civil Rights case that would have let this happen as that would have made for a more interesting movie.
• The script gives numerous references to Coltrane being a cyborg, with such things as having had aggression upgrades, but the film literally does nothing with the idea. Why couldn’t we have had a Whoopi Goldberg Robocop movie, it couldn’t have turned out worse.
• Teddy wants to blend in so he requests a wardrobe makeover that results in him getting a hoodie and sneakers, to which Coltrane remarks “Now you look like a cop” but as all the cops we see in this film are in black leather uniforms this statement is blatantly false.
• Why would anthropomorphic dinosaurs have formed a religion? Elizar Kane couldn’t have created them more than a decade or so ago and that seems like a short time for a new species to develop its own religion.
If one thing can be learned from this movie is that it’s not a good idea to sue your star, you’d think that would be obvious but then again Hollywood is full of idiots, but when Whoopi Goldberg backed out of the production, after a verbal agreement to star in the film had been made, the filmmakers took the bizarre road of suing her which, of course, alienated their lead actor, who during litigation clearly stated to the producers “Just for the record, I hate your guts” and resulted in a performance that was basically done at gunpoint. How did anyone involved think this was going to turn out? So not only did they have a mess of a script, based on a nonsensical premise, but they also had a lead actor who hated being there and all involved. Watching the film you can’t tell the difference between the disdain Whoopi’s character has for the dinosaurs around her or the disdain the actress has for simply being there
Due to poor test screenings, the film didn’t even get a theatrical release, making it the biggest budgeted direct-to-video film at the time, and though it did make some decent cash from poor parents whose kids forced them to rent it from the local Blockbuster, Theodore Rex will always remain a stain on Whoopi Goldberg’s career and on cinema itself. Basically, if you are in the mood for a fun “So bad it’s good” movie look elsewhere as this one is simply boring and painful to watch and deserves to be tossed into the La Brea Tar Pits.
Theodore Rex (1995)
Movie Rank - 2/10
The only positive thing I can say about Theodore Rex is that the animatronic dinosaur suits were fairly decent it’s just everything else in the film that stunk to high heaven.