It's a boy! It's a robot! It's … a T-Rex? It's Tammy and the T-Rex!
Typically with Deja Views, we FANGRRLS revisit wild genre movies from our past with fresh eyes, full hearts, and a faint but cozy sense of nostalgia. Today, I'm going to shake things up by covering one of my regretful blindspots and finally watching the 1994 marvel Tammy and the T-Rex.
Going in, I know little about this movie beyond: It stars a pre-Starship Troopers Denise Richards and a very pre-Fast and the Furious Paul Walker. And it's about a teen girl and a dinosaur who is also her boyfriend and maybe a robot? I dunno. I first heard about Tammy and the T-Rex last year when it played in repertory at Fantastic Fest. Somehow, amid all our coverage of the fest, I missed it. But now it's streaming on Shudder! So let's sink our teeth into this (checks notes) PG-13 sci-fi comedy about love and dinosaurs!
1. OK. What is this movie's title? Shudder and IMDb agree on "Tammy and the T-Rex," but the movie itself has a title card that reads: "Tanny & The Teenage T-Rex." Then, Denise Richards is credited in the opening titles as "Tanny." Like, I get that movie titles can change upon release to various platforms (hello, Deadly Games!). But now I don't even know the name of the titular lead!
2. God bless the '90s. Tammy and the T-Rex (aka Tanny & The Teenage T-Rex) kicks off with a combo of tropes from this rad era: a rambunctious cheerleading practice where the girls in midriff-baring crop tops and bold fashion choices that feel like rejects from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's closet. All the while, a theme song blares that is comically on point: "I feel the rumble. I feel the roar. Dance to the music of the DINOSAUR!"
3. Hello, Paul Walker. Thank you for proving '90s crop tops knew no gender limitations.
4. "I think everybody knows Byron." Sure. Byron (Theo Forsett) is the double-whammy of problematic stereotypes. He's the sassy gay friend and the wise-cracking black friend who makes the white hetero-heroes seem cooler by association. Cool cool cool ...
5. Oh, here comes the plot. Tammy/Tanny and Michael (Walker) want to be together. But she has a crazy violent ex named Billy (George Pilgrim), who is keeping them apart. A fight breaks out between the two romantic rivals, during which teens are literally calling for the bad boy to murder nice jock Paul Walker where he stands. Instead, this acrobatic brawl ends in a "testicular standoff" as the cops arrive. For those not up on your Cops lingo, that's when two people violently grab each other by the nuts.
6. Now, without warning the film leaps to a T-Rex in a foggy warehouse. The beast is still and silent until a mysterious man in black, Dr. Wachenstein (Terry Kiser), demands it move. It's animatronic, bound within the limitations of a "stupid computer." However, Wachenstein dreams of more for his monster: freedom, a brain, and immortality! Sure. Why not?
7. Tammy/Tanny and Michael are having a tender phone call, and all I can think about is how good both of their eyebrows are. This was clearly before fashion turned to plucking them into quizzical commas as if full brows were a burden to our foreheads.
8. That was a booty call! Michael wears his nicest untucked shirt and a leather jacket to sneak into Tammy/Tanny's room.
9. Timeless Pro-Tip from Tammy/Tanny: If your dad hears your boyfriend fall into your bedroom, call him on your rotary phone to tell him the sound was just you dropping your dictionary.
10. How dare this movie. A could-be sex scene between Denise Richards and Paul Walker is interrupted by Billy and his gang storming into her bedroom. I recognize that we need to race to the inciting incident that'll bring this couple of lovers into the story of the animatronic T-Rex. But couldn't we get a little more sexy fun first? Rude. Honestly.
11. Billy may be a violent, misogynistic jerk, but he's not basic. You might have thought this territorial creep and his gang would pummel Michael to death, shoot him, or run him down with their fleet of cars. Nope! Billy dumped a battered Michael in a wildlife park, where he was swiftly mauled by a lion. At least this beast had the decency not to scratch Paul Walker's pretty face.
12. Helga don't want no scrubs. She does, however, want to aid Dr. Wachenstein in faking Michael's death and hijacking his body from the hospital. "He's going to a far far far far better place," the doctor tells a distraught Tammy/Tanny, "Helga, take him to the morgue."
13. Thinking to myself, "Where do I know Dr. Wachenstein from?" Weekend at Bernie's! Ironically, the guy who is passing off a live man as dead is most famous for playing a dead man who was passed off as alive.
14. I was not prepared for a brain surgery scene that begins with a cigarette-dangling Helga punching Michael in the jaw as an anesthetic. It then moves onto Michael's head being brutally sawed open with a power saw, then delivers a gag about poking his brain to give the teen a boner. That pops up so hard and mighty that Helga could use it to knock someone out for surgery. Behold cinema!
15. Do you recognize the boy covered in blood? He has a history in horror scenes. John Franklin played Isaac in the Children of the Corn franchise as well as Cousin It in the Addams Family movies!
16. It's ALIVE! Michael's brain now belongs to the robo-T-Rex. This movie is basically RoboCop meets Romeo and Juliet meets … a T-Rex.
17. Michael is awake and roaring mad about being in a dino-bod. I will say this — the combo of animatronic T-Rex head with limbs that are CLEARLY costumed human hands and feet is delightful. It makes ghoulish acts like stomping a minion to death, or picking the viscera out of his teeth as hilarious as when this big beast reaches his tiny dino digits into the refund slot of a payphone in search of change! Michael, you don't have pockets anymore! What're you doing?
18. "I brought you a kamikaze with a vodka chaser. How you doing?" — Byron, a true friend
19. Billy c*ckblocked Michael by barging into Tammy/Tanny's room. Now a predatory dino-bot, he repays the favor by butting in on Billy's backseat hook-up, decapitating him, and murdering his friends. Turnaround is fair play?
20. This movie really makes you think. Is the only thing that separates most of us from going on a merciless murder spree that we are not Tyrannosaurus Rexes?
21. OK. All the violence and cursing and the weird title card has me wondering what's up. So, I paused to do some research. The version on Shudder is not the 1994 theatrical release that was PG-13. THIS is the 2017 "restored" version, "fully uncut for the first time on home video, with all of its gross-out gags and gratuitous decapitations, gut rippings, and head smashings, courtesy of special effects wizard John Carl Buechler (Mausoleum), completely intact." Yup, that tracks.
22. So, you might be wondering by this point why Dr. Wachenstein wants to put a human brain in the robo-dinosaur. He wants to literally live forever. In a dinosaur body. Once the kinks are worked out, he and Helga will get kinky. They plan to both become T-Rex robots with working "anatomical parts."
23. Speaking of banging a T-Rex, Michael has abducted Tammy and is putting the moves on her. But his game has lost a step or two without being able to speak, and charades is way harder when you've only got two digits per paw.
24. You had me at "Michael's Brain."
25. Love means never having to say, "Sorry, but I'm not into dinosaurs."
26. "This is a little hard to explain: Michael's brain is inside the dinosaur." This line exists and yet Tammy and the T-Rex did not score a single screenplay award. WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?!
27. - What're you wearing to Michael's funeral?
- My poncho, I guess.
- What're you wearing, grieving girlfriend of Michael?
- I can't decide between my Blossom cosplay or my Stevie Nicks cosplay.
- Why not both?
- Did you say why not jorts? GOOD IDEA!
28. If you were wondering if this movie includes a scene where Tammy/Tanny tries to grave-rob the corpse of her lost love but finds it too rotted and maggot-bit for use, yes there is!
29. I'm struggling to imagine this as a PG-13 movie. "B*tch" is used as liberally as blood and gore. This movie would have made even less sense cutting around all those shots.
30. With Michael's body a maggot feast, Tammy/Tanny and Byron are trying to find another corpse to host his brain. They are at a morgue, holding candidate corpses up to the mortuary window for the T-Rex to choose from. But it's a very Goldilocks scenario. Too short. Too old. Too a woman. Tragically, they have to bail before finding "just right."
31. I appreciate that no matter their highs and lows, Dr. Wachenstein and Helga have insatiable hots for each other. Chasing down an escaped science experiment gone wrong? They flirt. Bound with rope by their enemies. They turn it into a turn-on. Relationship goals, truly.
32. "Hang onto your boobs girl, it's going to be a bumpy ride!" — Byron, a true friend
33. Tammy/Tanny doesn't seem remotely bothered that her dino-boyfriend murdered her ex. She is very into his new bod, constantly stroking it, and jumping on to give it a test ride.
34. "You don't gallop off into the sunset with a dinosaur without causing a stir!" — Byron, a true philosopher
35. Eat your heart out, Jurassic Park.
36. Pro-Tip From Tammy/Tanny: When trying to deter the cops from shooting up your dino-beau, use your bra as a white flag. Note: it must be a white bra. Another Note: Always wear a white bra, just in case.
37. Woah! Michael really is into ghoulish overkill. Not only did he bite the guts out of the not-so-good doctor, he then spits those innards all over the hot-for-doc Helga! They murdered him for his brain, so fair enough. But after that violent vengeance, not even Tammy/Tanny's white bra could save him from the wrath of the cops. Michael's robo-dino body is murdered.
38. Cut to Tammy/Tanny back home and happy and her parents saying, "It's not right him being up there like that." What could that possibly mean!
39. Bless. Michael is back in Tammy/Tanny's bedroom. Or at least his brain is. It's in a bowl, hooked up to a video camera, which she performs a striptease for. And we thought Wild Things Richards was kinky.
40. "You got to give me a body! I can't take any more of this." That's it! That's the end!
41. Wow. Well, that did not disappoint. Plenty of guts, gore, and goofiness with a generous slathering of '90s fashion, B-movie shenanigans, and quirky star power. Tammy and the T-Rex was even more bonkers than I could have imagined. In short, it was dino-mite!