'DinoTrux': TV Review

DinoTrux Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Netflix

DinoTrux Still - H 2015

Kids will think it’s dino-mite! 

Netflix’s new animated series returns to the Mechazoic Era (groan) for a life-lesson teaching and toy-selling tale of anthropomorphized vehicular dinosaurs.

Viewers of a certain age may remember the 1987 animated series Dinosaucers, in which those imagination-capturing creatures of yore were reconceived as walking and talking space travelers who journeyed to Earth from their home planet of Reptilon and joined forces with a quartet of human teens known as the Secret Scouts. The anthropomorphized dinos had names like Bronto Thunder and Ghengis Rex and uttered cretaceous-era headslappers like "The Dinosaucers are leaving Bossasaur!" The 10-year-old version of this reviewer found it an artistic pinnacle.

What goes around comes around. The kids today now have a Dinosaucers to call their own thanks to Netflix and DreamWorks’s 10-episode animated offering DinoTrux, adapted from Chris Gall's series of children’s books. If anything, the show doubles down on those prehistoric witticisms, starting with that high concept title.

As the name suggests, these dinosaurs are a mix of giant reptile and muscle vehicle. Our hero is Ty-Rux (Andrew Francis), a friendly T-Trux (combination Tyrannosaurus Rex and megaton excavator) who is forced to leave his valley home after it's destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Ty is desperately in need of ore, the substance that sustains all dinotrux, and he happens upon a mother lode in a valley ruled over by D-Structs (Paul Dobson), a ruthless T-Trux who doesn’t care to share the bounty.

Read more: Netflix Preps 'Dinotrux' Kids Series from DreamWorks Animation

The pilot (the only episode made available for review) makes clear that T-Truxes are normally viewed by other dinos as not-to-be-messed-with predators. But Ty is different because he sees the value in working together, and much of the initial installment is given over to him befriending others of his genus. There’s Revvit (Richard Ian Cox), a miniature "reptool" who helps fix Ty’s broken tread. There’s Skya (Ashleigh Bell), the sass-talking girl of the group who’s a combination brachiosaur and crane.

Ton-Ton (Matt Hill) is an Ankylosaurus dump truck who speaks like one of the bank-robbing surfers from Point Break and has a daredevil streak to boot. And finally there’s Dozer (Brian Drummond), the Triceratops-bulldozer who’s initially hostile toward Ty, but changes his mind after an impromptu rescue mission proves that dinotrux work better as mutual partners rather than antagonistic hunter-killers.

The overall life lesson is obvious and treacly, essentially boiling down to "friends come in all shapes and sizes." And it’s doubtful any of the subsequent episodes will abandon the age-old kids’ show template in which twenty minutes of Hulk-smash! action is followed by two minutes of syrupy moralizing. The animation is serviceable at best, with the wittiest bit of character design being Revvit’s tape measure tongue (it flicks out and retracts with amusing speed). Dialogue, meanwhile, is either functional or pun-laden. "It was an accident," Ty says, referring to a chink in his metallic skin. "Bet you wish it was an 'accidon’t!' " replies Revvit. (I smell Emmy!)

Unsurprisingly, DinoTrux works best as an advertisement for the playthings that Toys 'R' Us is currently prepping to debut in October. And what child wouldn’t want their own Ty, Revvit or D-Structs, doing what the series’ admittedly catchy theme song demands?: "Crush it! Smash it! Move it! Lift it!" Let the young’uns have their fun, say I.   

Twitter: @keithuhlich