By Nick Hintz
The Good Dinosaur tells the story of a young Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ocha) who lives in a world where the meteor that was supposed to kill the dinosaurs missed Earth, resulting in humans and dinosaurs living together at the same time. When Arlo becomes separated from his home and family, he teams up with a young human named Spot (Jack Bright) to find his way back home.
My first impression of the this film is that the animation is absolutely stunning. The backgrounds of the film looked beautiful and near realistic. The first few shots of the film had me questioning whether they were computer generated or real. These backgrounds are nicely blended with the more “cartoony” dinosaurs and other characters to give an overall nice atmosphere to the film.
Arlo’s journey through the film is mostly a “coming of age story” with a slight twist on the “boy and his pet” story. At times, it definitely did not feel like it was an original story. There are noticeable elements that seem to borrow from films such as The Lion King and The Jungle Book. So, although not entirely original, the story told is actually quite nice. However, other than a journey, this story line is nowhere near as evolved as some of the others Pixar has put out. It seems to wander a bit throughout the film, only to find its way back in the end. For children, there are a lot of good messages in the film such as the idea of earning your mark as well as facing your fears. Perhaps the most redeeming quality of the film is that it does have a lot of humor sprinkled throughout its story.
There are several “would be emotional” scenes in the film. These scenes play out like they should be big emotional moments, yet there is not enough setup for that moment to get the audience to really care for the characters (or the situation). This is particularly odd considering Pixar’s penchant for getting its audiences to cry.
Character wise, the story really focuses on Arlo and Spot. This is interesting since Spot doesn’t talk, so most of the dialogue is left to Arlo. Quite frankly, I really would have loved to have seen these characters developed more and most other characters are really underdeveloped as well. Other than some memorable lines from Butch (Sam Elliott) and some humor from Forrest Woodbush (Peter Sohn), the other characters are, for the most part, forgettable.
The Good Dinosaur is a good film, but definitely not great. Were this from any other animation studio, I think it would be huge for them. However, we’re dealing with a studio that has put out such iconic films such as Toy Story, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and more. Not only that, but the studio released Inside Out, arguably one of its best films, about six months ago. That being said, The Good Dinosaur does not live up to the bar previously set by past Pixar films. Though it’s not the studio’s worst film (looking at you Cars 2), it’s certainly not the best.
In it’s concept, The Good Dinosaur had a lot of promise. The film had considerable trouble during production including having the release date pushed back twice, changes to the majority of the voice cast and a change in directors. With these issues, the film was just not as developed as it could have been.
The bottom line for The Good Dinosaur is, although it’s not Pixar’s best, it still has its moments. Overall, the film has a nice story, with humor and amazing animation. Leaving the theater, I felt good having seen it. The film may not have the same cross-generational appeal that Inside Out had, but despite its flaws, it will still be enjoyable for children. My recommendation is that if you have children who want to see it, go ahead and take them. If not, don’t worry, you’re not missing much.
Image by Imdb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1979388/)