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Super Dinosaur's Charming Execution Keeps It From Feeling Too Breezy

Much like the Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard comic book on which it's based, Amazon's Super Dinosaur is exactly what it says on the tin, focusing on an intelligent dinosaur that works alongside his adopted family to fight evil. Although the series skews incredibly young, it's still a fun, if somewhat disposable, series.

The series centers around the super-excitable super-genius Derek (Valin Shinyei) and his best friend/adopted brother, SD (Mac Heywood). SD is short for Super-Dinosaur, and SD has the robotic gear and T-Rex body to earn the name. Working with Derek's elderly father Doctor Dynamo (Alessandro Juliani), the three protect the valuable DynOre, a powerful energy source that in the wrong hands could be used for darker intentions.

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The arrival of the Kingstons, a family of engineers sent to assist the Dynamo family on their missions complicates matters. Derek quickly butts heads with the two younger Kingstons, Erica and Erin (Shannon Chan-Kent), but he's also afraid of their presence affecting his father. Doctor Dynamo has been exhibiting troubling signs that his mind is beginning to slip away. With increasing attacks from his former partner and current rival Doctor Max Maximus (Marco Soriano) and his army of Dyno-Men, Derek and SD have their work cut of them.

The series is in tone with the original comic series, if slightly toned down for the younger audience. It also leans more into the overt comedy of the premise, giving the characters a childish sense of wonder and snottiness even while they're trying to protect the world. The show barrels through stories with the energy of its hyperactive protagonists, matching Derek and SD's typical excitement as they go into missions. It plays out with the same kind of sincerity as something like Axe-Cop, although it is clearly targeting a younger demographic. The animation style is bright and cartoony, even occasionally cutting away to a simplified SD for a quick gag.

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The animation and action are fluid enough to allow for some exciting action sequences. It's also animated to take place just out of the frame on occasion, giving any of the wild actions a bit more speed and scale. While the smaller moments can be a little stilted and broad, the show comes to life when it moves into action scenes. Luckily, the four episodes screened for critics found ways to insert the heroic duo into a number of situations or confrontations that suggests the show will constantly try to find new locations or battles to throw them into.

The more basic elements of the story, such as the morals that Derek can learn from others and similar simple lessons, are forgettable, but they luckily aren't all that happens in the show. There's actually a layer of sadness to many of the proceedings that hint at the darker world below the more overt tech-happy material on display. The subplot with Doctor Dynamo's memory simmers through the early episodes. Meanwhile, the Dyno-Men displays a promising sense of disconnect from Max Maximus that promises to turn into something more interesting as the series develops further.

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At the core of this world is the cast, who acquit themselves well with the frantic tone of the show. While Derek and SD both almost become aggravating at certain points, the pair also have smaller character moments with the expanding supporting cast that hint at a more developed core to the characters. The relationship between Derek and the Kingston family sets up an interesting dynamic going forward, and the appearance of another young genius named Elliot who could be a friendly rival to Derek promises some enjoyable capers in the future.

There's nothing particularly deep about Super Dinosaur, and it initially doesn't appear to have an overarching thematic drive. But as short bursts of adventure meant to entertain young fans, the show is well-constructed and fun. The toyetic elements of the series (Derek and SD always seem to find excuses to wear new armor) and at-times purposefully childish elements wouldn't work without the right level of self-awareness and craft. Fortunately, Super-Dinosaur has both in healthy supply, papering over the more forgettable moments of the young-leaning show with an infectious sense of charm.

Amazon Prime Video's Super Dinosaur will be released Sunday, Oct. 6, in its entirety, with 13 half-hour episodes.

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