Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (PG)
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This came out in 1985, when I was 9 years old. I want to mention that I was born in Boston and lived there for about the first four years of my life, until my family moved to my mom's hometown in Maine. But throughout my childhood, we occasionally went back to Boston to visit my dad's family there. (Or a suburb thereof.) Anyway, I have this vague feeling that I first saw this movie in a theater during one of those visits. I also have a memory of having a hamburger from McDonalds that I'd kept in the fridge or maybe the freezer, and when we went to the movies, sneaking it into the theater inside an upturned pants cuff. I'm not sure if I did that when we went to this movie or something else, but I can't think of any other movies that I feel quite as likely to have seen during a visit to Boston, so... whatever. That's just a little vague anecdote I wanted to share, now that I'm writing this review after watching the movie on DVD in 2019.
Well, the movie starts with a bit of text exposition about rumors of a creature called Mokele-mbembe (which the text misspelled). Then we see a bustling parade in Africa, and one man follows another man across the parade, and murders him when they're out of sight. He stills the folder of documents his victim had been carrying, which includes an indistinct picture of what may be Mokele-mbembe. We later learn that the murderer is a paleontologist named Dr. Eric Kiviat (Patrick McGoohan, who I completely failed to recognize). He's in charge of a dig site, and one of the people who works for him is Dr. Susan Matthews-Loomis (Sean Young), who has spent the last six months there with her journalist husband, George Loomis (William Katt, familiar to me from The Greatest American Hero). Susan finds part of a skeleton which she thinks could belong to a dinosaur, but Eric tells her it's from a giraffe, which disappoints her. Meanwhile, George gets a job offer back home in the U.S., and he's eager to go there, even though Susan wants to stay. (He seems like kind of a jerk about it, but I suppose it's understandable that after giving up half a year of his career to be with his wife while she pursues her own career far from home, he'd be somewhat upset about her not wanting to do the same.)
Anyway, Eric was of course lying about the skeleton fragment. It was from a dinosaur, specifically a brontosaurus, which is what Mokele-mbembe actually is. And the fact that it's a fairly recent artifact, not an ancient fossil, means there are living dinosaurs somewhere in the jungle. He wants to be the first to discover and capture one, which he keeps a secret from pretty much everyone, even his loyal assistant, Nigel. The two of them head off for an expedition to find the dinosaurs, just as Susan and George are about to leave for America. But since Eric is in a hurry, he asks Susan to find out what doctor who'd just shown up in camp wanted. It turns out the doctor has a skeleton fragment just like the one Susan had found, and says it was from an animal that some natives had eaten that made them all sick. And it wasn't something they normally eat, or normally even see anywhere. Susan wants to go check it out, but... George doesn't. (And now I think I've gotten this out of order... when I said he was a jerk, it wasn't until after this situation made Susan want to stay in Africa a little longer.) Anyway, Susan leaves in the middle of the night while George is sleeping, to go with the doctor to talk with a dying member of the affected tribe. When George wakes up and finds the note Susan left him, he charters a flight with a local pilot to follow her. The dying man draws in the sand a rough sketch of the creature he and his people had eaten, and it looks like a brontosaurus. So... Susan and George go out looking for the creature.
They meet another tribe, and befriend them, despite not being able to communicate with them. Later, they set up a tent, and are about to have sex, when a dinosaur crashes through and kills the mood. They follow it, and find that it's part of a family: mother, father, and baby brontosaurs. However, Eric soon shows up with Nigel as well as a hired group of local soldiers. They manage to tranquilize the mother, but when the father shows up to defend his mate, the soldiers kill him, over the protests of the scientists. Then they take the mother away, unaware of the baby's existence. So, "Baby," as Susan and George call her, is now an orphan, and they want to protect her from Eric and the others, as well as trying to free the mother. Of course, Eric eventually learns of Baby's existence, and wants to capture her, too. So... things get complicated. But Susan and George eventually get some help from the tribe they'd befriended earlier.
I guess that's all I want to say about the plot. It seems like I've said a lot, but really, most of what I've said happens fairly early in the movie, and the rest... well, I've left out a lot of details. Anyway, it's not a great movie, but I think it deserved to do better than it did both financially and critically. And I don't really know what else to say about my own thoughts or feelings about it. My sense of nostalgia for it is quite vague, and it's not something I feel a particular need to ever watch again. But I'm definitely glad to have seen it for a second time, now. (And I did also want to mention there were maybe a few moments in the movie where I thought Baby's face, at least, kind of resembled what an animatronic Toothless might look like.)