American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
If a film had been made in the Cretaceous age, it might have looked a lot like "Dinosaur." The movie is startling in its impact. Against a backdrop of nature, which is clearly real, we see dinosaurs that are scarcely less real. We feel the same sense of wonder that was stirred by "Jurassic Park." These great beasts ruled the earth much longer than we have, their unlikely bodies sketched out in exaggerated Darwinian strokes.
The visual look of "Dinosaur" is a glimpse of wonders to come. The movie sends the message that computer animation is now sophisticated enough to mimic life itself in full motion, with such detail that the texture of reptilian skin seems as real as a photograph in National Geographic. The problem, as always, is to match the artistry with the technique.
The film opens with a little short story about an egg. The egg is first glimpsed in the nest of an iguanodon, which is fairly friendly-looking, as dinosaurs go. Predators attack the parents and disturb the nest, and then the egg is snatched by a scampering little critter who runs away with it. There's a fight for possession, the egg drops into a stream, is swallowed and then disgorged by a river monster, is snatched up by a flying creature and finally dropped from the sky to land in the habitat of lemurs.
Lemurs are of course about as cute as mammals can get. There were not any lemurs who looked like this at the time of the dinosaurs, but nevermind: The movie does a little overlapping of its eras to expand the cast and to give the mammals in the audience a point of identification. The egg hatches, a mother lemur takes the baby iguanodon into her arms, and then . . . she speaks.