Fantastic Fest Review: TAMMY AND THE T-REX’s “Gore Cut” Is Genuinely Funny
Tammy and the T-Rex is one of those movies that you, a movie-renter in 1993, would see at your local Blockbuster, take one look at the box art, and immediately either rent it or scoff at the idea of doing so. Released as a family film, it revolves around Tammy, played by a young Denise Richards, who must do her damnedest to save her boyfriend Michael (a young Paul Walker!) when his brain is transplanted into the body of a robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex by a mad scientist (Terry Kiser of Weekend At Bernie’s fame). G-rated antics and silly jokes ensue, as per director Stewart Raffill’s earlier film Mac & Me, and the whole family has a great time.
But that wasn’t the movie Tammy and the T-Rex was shot as. (That isn't even its original title, as the opticals team misprinted it as Tanny [sic] and the Teenage T-Rex.) Though the story remains the same in the released version, the film that was shot - and that is now doing a festival tour before a remastered Blu-Ray release by Vinegar Syndrome - was rated R, and rather than a sci-fi kids’ movie, was more of a horror comedy. Produced almost entirely because a guy approached the filmmakers offering up his robotic T-Rex as a prop, it’s a movie of opportunity rather than of passion, but given it’s been released as both a kids’ movie and a horror film, it’s surprisingly consistent and entertaining.
First things first: it’s a movie about a teenager’s brain being transplanted into the body of a T-Rex, and specifically a robotic T-Rex, so this is never going to be an intellectually stimulating movie. It’s incredibly silly, its protagonist’s inner life almost entirely revolves around her boyfriend, and its production value is solidly mid-grade without ever threatening to jump higher. What it isn’t is a bad movie, and that’s almost entirely down to its sense of humour. This movie slays before a crowd, but it's not the same laughter you'd get out of something like Troll 2.
It’s easy to point at a movie like Tammy and the T-Rex and call it “unintentionally funny.” Many films like it are, and the core conceit is indeed laughable. But while Tammy bears similarities to full-on "bad" movies, the vast majority of its laughs come not from poor acting or bad production value, but from jokes. A lot of them are dumb jokes. Maybe even most of them are. But they’re jokes with clear intent, and barring a few that haven't aged well, they’re also funny as fuck. There’s a place for comedy like this, just as there’s a place for subtler comedy, and to question Tammy and the T-Rex’s intent is to deny the jokes that pepper almost the entire script.
The filmmakers were clearly completely aware of how ridiculous the film’s story was, and many of its gags - the T-Rex using a payphone, or carrying Richards on its back, or getting romantic with her - are designed around maximising that ridiculousness. There’s also no way in hell the filmmakers didn’t lean into their robot’s relative lack of articulation; though its head and arms can move, not much else does, and many of the film’s funniest moments seem acutely aware of those limitations. You get a strong sense that everyone working on Tammy embraced the stupidity of the gig they were somehow getting paid to do, and had fun with it - even Richards, who arguably gives a perfect performance for her role and for this film.
Interestingly, the Tyrannosaur's immobility results in some of the R-rated version’s cleverest cinematic workarounds, and some of its best gags. While the body count in the kids’ version is (and I suspect I’m recalling correctly here) zero, the “Gore Cut” sees nearly ten minutes of additional footage added to the film, dotting the running time with deaths but mostly contributing two absolutely wonderful added/extended sequences. The best is a sublime bit of surgical slapstick in which Michael’s brain is profoundly mishandled on its way to its dinosaur housing, creating a surprising amount of chaos in a surprisingly small operating theatre. The other comes mid-film, as Michael’s Rexed-out rage increases and he rampages through a high school kids’ party. High schoolers get stomped on, chomped, and killed in more inventive ways I won't spoil, with a surprising quantity of blood spilled and laughter released. It’s amazing this material was cut, given how expensive it must have been, but on the other hand, it’s amazing the movie was even produced in the first place.
Tammy and the T-Rex is a movie in which a barely-mobile robotic T-Rex massacres people. It’s also a movie whose protagonist is successfully wooed to tears by that T-Rex, as it gestures in crude charades in an attempt to communicate. It’s full of pratfalls, fish-out-of-water jokes, and supporting characters broader than a dinosaur’s backside. And it ends with one of the most jaw-droppingly ill-advised romance scenes in the history of cinema. But none of that is by definition bad; it’s just stupid, and in this case “stupid” isn’t a judgement of quality - just a description of style. Tammy and the T-Rex is dumb as a bag of rocks - but it’s funny, god damn it, and you'll be shit outta luck trying to convince me otherwise.