Looked like it might be a fun scifi-monster movie—mutated dinosaurs living among humans AS humans? Nice spooky little shot of a normal-looking guy walking along, close up on his face, and one eye turns all yellow and feral with vertical pupil, then he walks on, looking just like everyone else. Fun stuff.
But guess what? The story is being told by the monster. How’s that grab ya? In flashbacks. And not only that, before you can decide this is too crazy for words, the movie starts jabbing a little bit at itself. It’s funny. The “dinos” get high on ordinary spices, like basil and rosemary and thyme. Shades of Alien Nation slags getting pie-eyed on sour milk, but why not? And guess what else. The dinos aren’t as bad as all that. They have families and jobs and friends and species-specific quirks (everybody knows that triceratops are herd beings and like to have lunch in groups) and—how timely can we get?—radicals who don’t like being made to fit in for the sake of survival and would like to let dinos be dinos. That is to say killer carnivores. The top of the food chain. Thus the central conflict of the movie. There are also some pleas for toleration of differences that might strike some as heavy-handed, but actually they didn’t do a bad job of showing how painful it can be to spend a lifetime “passing,” or living in the saurian version of the closet, which used to involve rubber disguises which evolved into 21-century hologram-creating electronics.
They touched a lot of bases in this movie, kept it moving, kept the characters interesting and more than one-dimensional, and took themselves just seriously enough to give you something to think about. And then there was the secret of the big bad private eye’s daughter… but that would require a spoiler alert.
Dinos. You gotta love ’em, claws and all. They’re tough, they’re smart, they’re adaptable, and mostly don’t act like they should all be deported to Jurassic Park. But still, would you want your daughter to marry one? Maybe the moral was We aren’t like you, and maybe we aren’t as benign as we’d like you to believe, but we aren’t as bad as your worst nightmares about us either. We are what we are, but you’ll never know what that is as long as we have to pretend to be what you are. That isn’t an abstraction for a lot of people living on the planet right now, it’s just what they have to deal with. Ask anyone in Michigan who has to live with the consequences of Proposal Two.