Dir: Stewart Raffill
Boy meets girl. Boy is beaten up by girl’s psycho ex. Boy is murdered by a mad scientist who transplants boy’s brain into an animatronic T-Rex. Boy/T-Rex goes on a bloody rampage, before finding his girlfriend and convincing her he’s her boyfriend. Girl and T-Rex go on the run together. [Sings] “Tale as old as time…”
A lot of questions went through my mind as I was watching Tammy and the T-Rex. The one that recurred most often was this: “Who was this made for?” Shot in this R Rated version, with some splattery but often inept effects, cut down to a PG-13 for its initial 1994 video release and now restored to its full ‘glory’, neither cut seems to have an answer for this question. For the most part, this is a teen comedy, but even the PG-13 material has a strange darkness to it, with Tammy’s (Denise Richards) ex stalking her and threatening both her and her new boyfriend Michael (Paul Walker) and the T-Rex murdering a whole lot of random people, albeit less graphically in the original version. In both cuts, despite the darkness of some of the story elements, the tone is pitched towards 8-year-olds, except when it’s not, like in the final scene, in which an underwear-clad Richards does a sexy dance number for reasons too astronomically idiotic to go into here And so, I ask again, who was this supposed to be for?
Tammy and the T-Rex (or Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex, as my screener’s titles had it, despite the fact Tammy’s name is always clearly pronounced with an M, not an N) is technically a bad movie. Richards does her level best, but she’s hamstrung by the terrible material and fails to display the kind of comic timing she would show a few years later in Drop Dead Gorgeous. She and Walker are a cute enough couple, and there’s a little chemistry there, but asking Richards to replicate that with an animatronic T-Rex was never going to work. That mission isn't helped by the T-Rex itself, and least of all by the hilariously cheap hands used every time it has to interact with something.
Try as everyone might, there’s never a moment that gets past the essential ridiculousness of the premise. And yet, that’s why the film works at a certain level. The restored gore is largely rubbish, and actually the film might be even funnier without it, because clips of the PG-13 version are even more comically stilted as they cut around the blood and swearing. While Richards and Walker aren’t bad within the confines of the script, the same can’t be said of the cartoony performances of most of the rest of the cast. Chief offenders are Terry Kiser as the scientist who transplants Michael’s brain into the T-Rex, playing the role as if he’s in some sort of overacting Olympics and Theo Forsett as Tammy’s camp gay best friend Byron, who is the butt of one of the film’s more mean-spirited jokes, from the sheriff’s deputies who are presumably meant as comic relief.
When it is trying to be funny, Tammy and the T-Rex largely misses the mark, but Ellen Dubin genuinely seems to be having a blast as Kiser’s sidekick, and scores a couple of laughs. The few gags that hit are pretty good (look for one when Tammy, Byron and the T-Rex are cornered by the cops late in the film) and the unintentional comedy does make up the dearth of honest laughter.
Honestly, your reaction to the title of this film probably tells you whether you’ll enjoy it. Imagine a film called Tammy and the T-Rex. Imagine how silly, how cheap, how comically inept it could be. Imagine how weird, singular and engagingly bizarre it could be. Tammy and the T-Rex is both of those movies. It’s not good, but at this point, who on Earth is coming to it expecting it to be good? Sit down and marvel at the cinematic car crash unfolding in front of your eyes. You’ll be entertained, just probably not the way Stewart Raffill had hoped for.