Friday, November 28, 2014
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Battle over fossil in a documentary

About the movie
Dinosaur 13
MPAA rating:
Running time:
Release date:
Directed by:
Todd Douglas Miller
On the web:
Dinosaur 13 Official Site

An impressive T. rex fossil affectionately known as Sue is the main attraction at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History.

How she got there is the subject of the tendentious documentary, Dinosaur 13.

Sue, originally discovered by a local crew of fossil prospectors in South Dakota, became the bones of contention in a tangled court case in the '90s.

At one point, the federal government, the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe, a local rancher and the aforementioned prospectors, headed by Peter Larson, all claimed ownership.

As ABC's Sam Donaldson said, in one of the many newsclips embedded here, "It may be the custody battle of the century."

Dinosaur 13 marshals an overwhelming amount of handheld video footage.

Cameras seem to have been running nonstop between the initial discovery in 1990 and Sue's Chicago installation in 2000. The events are almost tediously chronicled.

The point of view is blatantly advocative for Larson's cause. And while he certainly seems to be the injured party in this dispute (even being sentenced to two years in prison for "failure to fill out customs forms"), the deck is overstacked. The issue of commercial collecting of antiquities is glossed over.

Mostly, Dinosaur 13 is far too long, slogging along without momentum or suspense. These events would have been better handled in a single installment of Dateline.

Dinosaur 13 1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Todd Douglas Miller. Distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment.

Running time: 1 hr. 35 mins.

Parent's guide: PG (language, smoking).

Playing at: PFS at Roxy Theater and On Demand.

215-854-4875 @daveondemand_tv

David Hiltbrand Inquirer TV Critic
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