Of Dreck & Drink: Tammy and the T-Rex and Prairie BOMB!

A guide for those with bad taste in movies and good taste in brews

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With the revival of the Jurassic Park franchise in theaters after a 14-year hiatus, I suppose it’s understandable that my brain is suffering from a crippling flare-up of the same condition that so devastated me roughly from ages 4 to 10—acute Dinomania.

To be sure, my Dinomania was among the most virulent cases ever recorded by modern science. I ate, slept and breathed dinosaurs. I would have run away to live on a dinosaur plantation at the drop of a hat. Jurassic Park was my gospel, my holy text. Right up until the moment it was beaten out of me by a dream-crushing 4th grade teacher, “paleontologist” was the only job prospect that I ever wanted to pursue. But thankfully, my disease went into a long, wary remission. As time went by, I almost forgot the feeling of bolting upright in bed, soaked in sweat, and screaming something akin to: “THE CRANIAL CREST OF PARASAUROLOPHUS MAY HAVE BEEN USED FOR THERMOREGULATION!”

But now, the Dinomania has returned—just ask my neighbors, who are getting a little tired of the nightly interruptions of bellowed dinosaur factoids. I am painfully aware of what needs to be done in order to rid myself of this terrible disease—I need to watch a dinosaur movie so foul that it once again drains away any of the wonder or awe I might have once felt for these creatures. And that’s where Tammy and the T-Rex comes into this picture.

But what is the medically responsible beer to pair with such a film? Something with a dinosaur on the label? Would you believe that I couldn’t find any of those? Rather, let’s just stick with the basics—what I need to overcome this condition isn’t some foofy drink with a dinosaur on the bottle. What I need is a DINOSAUR-SIZED DRINK, at least in terms of ABV. A 13% ABV imperial stout sounds about right.

The Beer
Prairie Artisan Ales BOMB! is a truly gargantuan imperial stout, which is presumably why the name needs both capitalization and an exclamation point—I believe that in Oklahoma, its place of origin, that combination of typographic elements is considered a viable alternative to the Surgeon General’s warning to pregnant women on the bottle. “Just, you know, don’t drink any exclamations and you should be fine,” something like that.

But I digress. What we have here is a truly dinosaurian beer in terms of stature, an imperial stout aged on coffee, cacao beans, vanilla bean and ancho chiles. This is of course an oft-seen flavor combination for stouts these days, a “Mexican hot chocolate”-type twist that often also sees the inclusion of cinnamon, in the style of Perennial Artisan Ales’ Abraxas. BOMB!, in comparison, is a bit more elegant, although it’s still the flavor bomb that the name implies.

prairie-bomb.jpg Kablam!

The nose features the spice of the chiles prominently, and they come through with a peppery quality that also evokes cinnamon, even though that spice isn’t listed among the beer’s adjuncts. On the palate, the chocolate and coffee flavors are wonderfully evocative, and the chiles contribute an earthy, dark, dried fruitiness. As in most of the chile beers I actually find effective, they don’t give it appreciable “heat” or spiciness, but rather a tingle of pepper and lots of appealing dried fruit complexity.

If there’s one thing that really stands out between BOMB! and other imperial stouts with similarly spiced profiles, though, it’s how well-integrated and seamless those flavors are. This does not drink like a 13% ABV beer, and does not coat the palate in syrupy sweetness. In fact, the comparison between how well BOMB! hides its ABV and Tammy and the T-Rex hides its technical shortcomings provides an instantly hilarious parallel.

The Film
Tammy and the T-Rex is one of those films that is significantly more interesting today than it ever was at the time of its release in 1994 because it stars famous people Before They Were Famous. Here, the famous people in question are Denise Richards and Paul Walker (R.I.P.), both of whom were apparently making their feature film debuts as lead characters. Given their ages, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that they’re both playing high school students. What may surprise you, however, is that they’re also playing the film’s two title characters. Yes. Allow me to explain.

Tammy (Richards) is a popular, cheerleader type with the requisite gay best friend. He’s also black, this film falling into that odd period of the mid-’90s where cool, black best friend characters were all the rage in teen movies, with those characters consistently dressing head-to-toe in ceremonial African robes and culturally significant clothing in order to proudly reclaim their African roots. Yes, that’s as awkward as it sounds—this character (his name is Byron) literally spends the entire film wearing Kwanzaa garb while lisping and visually undressing Paul Walker, unable to decide if he’s supposed to be more of a black stereotype or a gay stereotype.

tammyblackfriend (Custom).jpg Good old ’90s funeral attire, amiright?

Walker, meanwhile, plays Tammy’s boyfriend Michael, a popular and presumably ultra-virile football player who immediately runs afoul of Tammy’s psychotic ex-boyfriend Billy, who can’t accept that Tammy is no longer interested in being the vassal of a murderous goon. They instantly end up in one of the weirdest fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a film, as both Billy and Michael roll around on the ground before simultaneously grabbing each other’s dicks and refusing to let go. They stand there, hands squeezing each other’s junk, howling in pain and determination, in the only non-porn case of dick grabbing within the first five minutes of a film I’ve ever seen. It continues until the town’s incompetent police officers arrive to physically separate them—”What we got here is one of them testicular stand-offs,” opines one of them, in a surreal moment. Andy Sidaris films have more dignity and gravitas than this.

To shorten a long and confusing story, Billy gets revenge on Michael by abducting him in the night and dumping him into a wild lion enclosure, which just so happens to be on the edge of town, because sure, why not? After being subsequently mauled by big cats, his body is abducted again by a new set of characters led by mad scientist Dr. Wachenstein, played by Terry Kiser of Weekend at Bernie’s fame. Their plan is to take the hale and hearty brain of a teen and insert it into the PERFECT RECEPTACLE: A life-size, robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex. And that’s how the brain of Paul Walker ends up inside a robot dinosaur. I feel very strongly, dear readers, that you never expected you would read those particular words in that particular order.

What follows is some weird mishmash of teen comedy and horror elements, as the Walker Rex breaks free and goes on a rampage, murdering both Dr. Wachenstein’s goons and the high school bullies who set his fate in motion … along with some perfectly innocent bystanders who die for no good reason. This is handled via scenes that rapidly vacillate between comic violence and really gross violence, as if the filmmakers really weren’t quite sure if this was supposed to play to a family audience or an adult one—I guess this isn’t too surprising, coming from Stewart Raffill, the director of both The Ice Pirates and Mac and Me. Either way, it gives us people squashed cartoonishly flat:

squashed guy (Custom).jpg Genuinely icky.

As well as the guy whose head gets crushed in dino jaws:

dino head (Custom).jpg “I’m feeling some sort of sensation around my head region.”

Tammy, meanwhile, gets abducted (I’m just realizing now how many abductions are in this movie) by Walker Rex and brought to a barn, where a sophisticated game of charades convinces her that her supposedly dead boyfriend’s brain has been implanted into a robotic dinosaur. Which is to say, he points to the wristband Michael gave her, then to himself, and then she just puts two and two together somehow. From that point, we’re treated to a series of madcap hijinks involving the gang trying to steal Michael a new human body before being chased by police and a final confrontation that involves the sassy, gay best friend yelling: “Leave him alone! That’s my friend’s brain in that dinosaur!” The police, not being so easily swayed into dino-compassion, destroy the dinosaur, which leaves us with a final surprise teaser—Tammy saves the brain in a jar and apparently performs seductive stripteases for it on a daily basis after getting home from school. No, really. (Skip to 7:23.)

It is, as you can no doubt see, a rather harmlessly goofy film from a story sense, but as a bad movie the fun factor largely comes from watching the filmmakers struggle to clumsily deal with their budgetary and FX limitations. The actual dinosaur animatronic in question is first seen on a platform, and the rest of the film is a series of failed diversions meant to hide the fact that it never leaves that platform. It’s not capable of actually walking, so every medium shot of the thing has to come up with a way to “creatively” hide the fact that it’s feet are bolted down. Convenient bushes? Great. Put it behind some ankle-high bales of hay? Sure. That trick, coupled with some quick close-ups of dinosaur puppet feet moving, will give it all the illusion of movement it will ever need!

The best bit, though, is Walker Rex’s freakishly flexible, hilariously inconsistent puppet hands. When we see them in medium shots, they’re knobby little things, less than a foot long. Ah, but when we’re in tighter shots, they can do anything! From any angle! And any length! They come in from impossible angles, rubbery and snakelike, allowing him to pat the top of his own head or, in my favorite bit of the film, dial at a pay phone. You can’t beat the inconceivable geometry of this shot—his arm is apparently 10-feet long and bent in a “U” shape. It’s beautifully tacky—exactly what it looks like when the filmmakers just don’t give a shit about making something look feasible and give up.

payphone (Custom).jpg Stretch Dinostrong?

The Verdict
Tammy and the T-Rex is a fairly ideal bad movie—never boring, full of really, inexplicably weird characters, occasionally offensive and sincerely, genuinely poor in terms of the filmmaker’s art. It feels like a film completed out of obligation, with a director who was shrugging his shoulders and saying “Well, it’s not like anyone’s ever going to see it, anyway.” Little did he know that his two stars would go on to fame and fortune, which has given the movie a secondary life of its own, both as a relic of the dino-obsessed ’90s (this was made one year after Jurassic Park) and an embarrassing early career footnote for its stars. Rest assured: If I ever end up interviewing Denise Richards for some reason, there will be many Tammy and the T-Rex questions on the docket.

Prairie BOMB!, on the other hand, is how you do a dinosaur-sized attraction right. Massively flavorful, I would expect it as a beer critic to be full of the same sort of unpolished, rough edges as the film, as is only common in just about any 13% ABV stout. But that’s not it at all. Rather, this beer is incredibly sophisticated, smooth and integrated in its flavors—it’s a level of polish and craftsmanship unsurprisingly lost on the guy who directed Mac and Me. Tammy and the T-Rex may be fun-bad, but Prairie BOMB! is easily the experience I’d want to have again. I’d be drinking one right now, if I could.

Ready to witness the greatest cinematic achievement in the careers of Denise Richards and Paul Walker? Check out the Tammy and the T-Rex trailer.

Prefer to treat yourself to a Mesozoic melange of flavors? You’ll want to pick up some Prairie BOMB!

Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor, and his Dinomania is in full remission. It helps that Jurassic World sort of sucked. You can follow him on Twitter.