by Michelle Erica Green

This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.

Grade: A
Year: BBC Video, 2000
Running Time: 60 minutes

Video Summary:
A few years ago, scientists found a nearly complete allosaurus skeleton, using its evidence to recreate the dinosaur's life. ALLOSAURUS offers a gripping animated documentary about "Big Al," plus a feature about how his bones were discovered and his history recreated for this film.

In "Allosaurus," a baby dinosaur hatches from an egg. Immediately, he begins to learn how to capture food, hide from predators, and avoid hazards like muddy bogs. As he grows, he works with other carnivores to trap other animals for food. But he suffers injuries during fights and a disastrous attempt to mate. Though "Big Al" becomes large and strong, a broken toe leaves him unable to pursue prey, and the dry season cuts his life short.

In "Big Al Uncovered," archaeologists explain how they recreate the details of a dinosaur's life by studying its bones. A swollen toe indicates a painful, possibly lethal infection; several half-healed ribs suggest that Big Al was either aggressive or clumsy. Together with filmmakers, the scientists use state of the art graphics to reconstruct Big Al's appearance and tell his story.

Best For Ages:
6-8 - Though Big Al's demise may upset younger children, many will be engrossed in the archaeological background.

9 - 12 - Pre-teens will find this animated documentary both entertaining and enlightening.

12 & up - Teenagers and adults will be impressed with both production values and dramatic pacing.

Parental Advisory:
Educational Value: The "Allosaurus" segment gives viewers a first-hand view of life in the Jurassic Era. "Big Al Uncovered" explains the archaeological discoveries and film techniques that made it possible to recreate the dinosaur's life.

Entertainment Value: Excellent visuals and a dramatic story focused on one young dinosaur make this a compelling and informative film.

Violence: Dinosaurs kill one another and eat each other's babies.

Sex: Big Al engages in a rough courtship with another allosaurus, resulting in a broken rib.

Emotional Intensity: Al dies of starvation after a painful injury.

Frightening Situations: Dinosaurs are abandoned by their mothers, trapped in quicksand, surrounded by hostile carnivores, and assaulted by their peers.

Mature Themes: Death and extinction.

This superb documentary begins with a half-hour depiction of the life of Big Al, whose near-complete skeleton was found in Wyoming. From the moment it hatched in the swamp that once covered the American midwest, the young dinosaur made thrilling escapes from predators, dangerous weather and geological phenomena.

Although timid children may be upset by Big Al's violent life, most kids become fascinated by this intimate portrait of a dinosaur and remain engrossed in the factual companion piece, which explains in a more dry manner how scientists recreated Big Al's world. Scenes showing an allosaurus out-racing humans and out-eating crocodiles makes kids laugh, and gives them points of comparison with which they can relate.

Presented in this format, facts stick with viewers. One five-year-old kept reciting that an allosaurus has 70 sharp teeth, while an eight-year-old focused on the number of broken ribs Big Al suffered in his short life. Older viewers will also be interested in the explanations of filmmaking techniques, including puppetry and computer graphics. Pre-teens might find the animated "Allosaurus" segment juvenile, but will have an easier time absorbing "Big Al Uncovered" and appreciating the scientific dilemmas.

Young viewers who like ALLOSAURUS are sure to love Disney's DINOSAUR, which is also a bit scary for preschoolers. Older dinosaur fans might prefer JURASSIC PARK, which brings dinosaurs into the modern era.

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