The Incredibly Bad Film Show:
Tammy and the T.Rex

“We got two more squished bodies and a one-legged girl over there;
she's still kinda good-looking”.

The early careers of famous actors and actresses are usually the most fertile ground for Incredibly Bad movies, because once they're stars, their agents would rather they churn out banally mainstream work – straightforward “bad”, rather than “incredibly bad”. Thus, we have Kevin Costner in Sizzle Beach, Demi Moore in Parasite and Nastassja Kinski in the sublime Passion Flower Hotel. But to find two future stars in one of the most ill-conceived movies ever is a rare find indeed...

I have to admit that, for the moment, we are really talking only one star, and a proto-star. The former is Denise Richards; opinion on her aesthetic appeal is radically divided in the TC camp, some regard her as cute, while others refer disparagingly to her as “The One-Eyebrowed Wonder”. But after Starship Troopers, Wild Things and The World is Not Enough, there's no denying her position. Co-starring - for the first quarter at least - is Paul Walker, who has come up through Pleasantville, She's All That, and most recently, The Skulls. A great future beckons. Or at least, something better than Tammy and the T.Rex, certainly.

There is probably no connection to the “Tammy and the...” series of films starring the likes of Carrie Fisher’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, that ran in the late 50's and 60's. Instead, imagine a triple-tag match between Robocop, Jurassic Park and King Kong, and you'll be a good way towards knowing the plot. Specifically, though: Tammy (Richards) wants to go out with Michael (Walker), but her current jealous boyfriend arranges for an “accident” in a safari park. In hospital, Michael is kidnapped by a mad scientist, who implants his brain in an animatronic tyrannosaur (of wildly varying size, depending on which prop they are using). Inevitably, he escapes, goes on the rampage against his killers, then seeks out Tammy, who turns out not to be averse to some lizard lovin', even if DinoMike is by this stage a mass murderer. The police and mad scientist, however, are less happy...

Good news: it starts off on the right foot, with Denise as a cheerleader. Bad news: she's stuck behind the titles. This schizophrenia is characteristic of the movie overall, with ideas which you could see working, spoiled by quite hideous execution. It's both so juvenile you feel it ought to be a Disney film, yet clearly wants to be a Troma pic too. Even its rating occupies that uncomfortable PG-13 middleground. Had it gone either way, it would have been better.

The dinosaur effects, too, range from the numbly pathetic, to the quite decent. Cleverly, it's allowed to look animatronic, since it is and, when not moving, is by no means unconvincing. However, any attempt to show the whole thing in motion will provoke hysterical laughter as its legs move up-and-down like pistons. Worse still, the front legs are clearly played by arms in socks; half the time, they stick out from completely the wrong angle. This is important for scenes in which the T.Rex is, for example, required to make phone calls, the sheer pointlessness of which convinces me Tammy must have been sponsored by AT&T. There's another moment where Tammy's father phones her bedroom to find out what all the noise is.  It's good to talk, but...

With Michael out of the picture (Walker gets off lightly, only having to appear in the first twenty minutes or so), Tammy is assisted by unthreatening best friend Byron. He is a) black, b) the son of the local police chief, and c) bent as a nine-bob note. This is about as good as it gets with regard to comedy in the film. Well, actually, that's a bit cruel: there are two decent jokes:  the squashed T.Rex victims can be rolled up like wrapping-paper, and as Tammy and Byron prepare to surrender to the cops; Byron says, “We need something white – besides you.”

Well, I laughed. OK, only a bit...

Other tricky issues appear to relate to Michael's “accident”. The bad guys go to a safari park to dump him off, driving open-top convertibles: this is amazingly brave, or dumb, given it takes predatory animals about five seconds to notice Michael. And the only visible effect of the lion attack is to give Michael a black eye, yet this gets him into intensive care. Mind you, medical care in the city is a bit relaxed anyway; the morgue is in a building of its own, iunlocked, unguarded and with a convenient Morgue sign outside. That’s significant, as the very resourceful Tammy needs a new body into which DinoMike's brain can be placed, his old one having gone a bit off by now. She has great adaptive skills too. After she finds out her beau’s brain has been borrowed by a bad boffin, and is now inside a pneumatic dinosaur, virtually her first comment is, “I missed you so much”. She discovers the plot basics via DinoMike charades: watch for some deeply pathetic hand-in-sock gesturing.

The local cops finally notice a truck sitting outside the morgue with a dinosaur in it; Tammy + Byron are forced to flee in the truck, until a low branch clothes-lines DinoMike. We then get to see Denise Richards riding off into the sunset on the back of an artificial Tyrannosaurus Rex, which has to go down as a canonical image in bad cinema. But it's to no avail, as the police find them again, and take DinoMike down in a hail of bullets. While I'm usually reluctant to give spoilers, in this case I'll make an exception, for reasons which will become apparent. There's a happy ending: Tammy saves Mike's brain, and keeps it in a jar in her room, video camera and so forth attached for sensory input. She pours alcohol into his jar, and does little strip-teases in front of him to keep him amused, though the editing is so bad, one is left yearning for an R-rated version. The sight is sufficient for Mike's brain to start frying gently – after 82 minutes of the film, this is something with which it’s easy to feel sympathy.

As a movie, it’s hard to find any facet which is not completely inadequate, and one can only assume it was done as some kind of amusing tax write-off. No matter what they may do in their careers from here on, if Richards or Walker ever merit career retrospectives from the British Film Institute, it’s probably safe to say that Tammy and the T.Rex will not be heavily featured.

And what do we have here? It’s a blank bit of space at the end of the page. Wonder if I can find anything appropriate to fill it. Oh, look – what are these…?

Next: Killing for Cult-ure
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