- Directed by Bill L. Norton
- March 22, 1985
A paleontologist and her husband stumble upon Brontosaurus on an expedition in Central Africa and are pursued by the African military and a fame seeking scientist as they attempt to protect a baby dino and its parents.
The story of Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is built around/inspired by the myth of Mokele-mbembe which is a creature that supposedly lives in the Congo River Basin. Some people believe these are actually dinosaur descendants. Whether or not you believe that is up to you but I kinda want to. Anyway…
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is essentially Jurassic Park for the kids but if you go in expecting Jurassic Park-level special effects you’re going to be disappointed. CGI was not quite up to snuff to make realistic looking dinosaurs so a lot of what they do here is what they did in the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s combination of people in costumes and motorized props with some puppetry for good measure.
Where this film really fails is the obvious puppetry. It just looks like a hand in one of those cheap plastic puppets you can usually find in any toy department. You can even see where the wrist is by the bend in the neck!
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is a cute story. I can’t complain about it too much. I remember when this came out I was so jazzed to see it but it came and went rather quickly. I don’t think my mother or father would’ve punk down the money for it anyway. But there was an enduring allure to it for me that I could recall it existing years later.
It manages to touch the kid in me when I watch. While I enjoy it I don’t think it’s good enough to have ever been released in theaters. This is more like a well-produced television film than it is something made for theaters.
The film stars William Katt as George Loomis, Sean Young as Dr. Susan Matthews-Loomis, Patrick McGoohan as the evil Dr. Eric Kiviat, and Julian Fellowes as Nigel Jenkins with special appearance by Hugh Quarshie (known for his work in Highlander, Star Wars, and numerous other works) as Kenge Obe. Good cast but beyond Quarshie it feels like a cast that belongs on television.
Our villain of Dr. Kiviat has got a British accent and is singularly blinded by the goal of achieving fame and fortune. Something about it feels like McGoohan was trying to channel Vincent Price. There is also the added threat of the local military led by Colonel Nsogbu (Olu Jacobs) that sees the dinosaurs as a threat and wants to destroy them. Why are they a threat? Reasons I guess.
This film is rated PG and problem and probably mostly because of the National Geographic magazine style nudity that is here and there in the film. I give them props for that. Not because I need to see nudity but given where they were supposed to be they did maintain a level of authenticity. That strikes me is a little unusual for something that’s aimed at a younger group.
I think this could’ve been something special, but it just misses the mark. Perhaps it’s the limited expression of the faces of the dinos. Or even their clearly unrealistic appearance. I guess what I’m saying is that the main problem with this is the puppetry. They do a good job of building up the characters and creating an authentic looking environment, but things are brought down by the puppet. This is a rare moment when I cannot suspend my disbelief with something older even though I know it’s older. Maybe it’s because it looks as if they didn’t even put enough effort forward. If I had the money I would buy the rights to this film and replace all dinosaur shots with CGI. If I had been in charge of this film when it was made I would’ve at the minimum required more effort from the work on the dinosaurs.
The story of Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is a little thin but it doesn’t feel rushed. They don’t try to stretch anything out. They go with what they got and they don’t try to fluff it up which helps the minimal amount of actual narrative go down.
Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend is silly, light entertainment for children. While I can’t recommend this for adults, if you have small children, I think they will enjoy it.