DINOSAUR 13

Opening: “Sue” was and is the most complete T-Rex skeleton in existence, a paleontological find of such importance that it changed science and American legal precedent, not to mention the lives of those who stumbled across it. Todd Douglas Miller’s film (⋆⋆⋆) is a tale of plucky, underdog success, “the stuff that dreams are made of,” undercut by murky land boundaries, double-dealing and an absurdly heavy-handed federal justice system. Discovered in 1990, Sue was extracted from the Badlands of South Dakota by Peter and Neal Larson of the Black Hills Institute, commercial fossil hunters who hoped to make it the centerpiece of a small-town museum. Then the U.S. government and the American Indian owner of the land where they found Sue (and whom they paid $5,000) nixed all that. Miller’s strikingly photographed film tells a complex tale of tribal land ownership and prosecutorial reprisals that tied up Sue in courts for years. There are moments when you wonder if this CNN-produced documentary is cherry-picking its points of view, but what’s on the screen is pretty damning, from the moment the Feds swoop in to the finale, which smacks of the heavy tread of big-money museums. (At St. Anthony Main. Rated PG for mild thematic elements, language, smoking.)

ROGER MOORE, McClatchy News Service