Another Good Pixar Tale
Earlier this year Pixar released yet another masterpiece in “Inside Out”. A film that still remains my favorite movie of the year. In all the hype and excitement about “Inside Out” many have overlooked and forgotten about Pixar’s second film being released this year, “The Good Dinosaur”. Originally suppose to be 2014’s Pixar film, this film was pushed back thanks in no small part to the difficult production problems. If you’re looking for something on the level of “Inside Out” (which may a bit fair or unfair depending on your expectations of Pixar) you won’t find it here. However even with that being said Pixar has manage to craft yet another wonderful film. While this isn’t going to mentioned in the same breath as “Finding Nemo” or “Toy Story” (due to some of the film’s misgivings) but it is still, a touching, wonderful family film that I had a joy watching.
Like so many other Pixar movies “The Good Dinosaur” takes a “high concept” and crafts a story around it. In the film, the asteroid that killed the Dinosaurs misses the Earth and the Dinosaurs lived on. A few millions years pass and Dinosaurs have evolved a bit. Some are farmers and others are herders. “The Good Dinosaur” focuses on a family of Apatosaurus. The Apatosaurus are a family of farmers but the runt of the litter just can’t seem to find his place, Arlo. Unlike his siblings, he isn’t strong or courageous nor particularly skilled at anything. But after a tragedy and a dangerous storm Arlo is separated from his family and has to overcome his fears and find his way home. On his journey though he comes across a young human kid and adopts him as his pet named Spot. Together they form a special bond as they try to survive the treacherous landscape.
You may have heard some of these elements before and that’s because you have. “The Good Dinosaurs” does recycle some familiar story threads from other animated films like “The Land Before Time”, “Ice Age” and Disney’s “Dinosaur”. When the movie starts you sort of knows where it’s going which isn’t something we’re used too with Pixar (since we often look to the animated studio for it’s originality). However even though we might be familiar with a few elements Pixar is always able to execute them better than most. You can use tropes and clichés from other similar projects as long as you execute them properly. “The Good Dinosaur” may be familiar but it has enough tricks up its sleeve to feel fresh enough where it doesn’t feel like a rehash.
Some of those fresh elements is of course the role reversal of the classic boy and his dog story. Arlo the Dinosaur being the boy and the boy being the dog. It may not sound like much on paper but on screen it’s a fun role reversal to watch. Spot is a charming and fun character that Pixar manages to create a wide range of emotions with such little dialogue. Arlo on his own isn’t a very interesting lead or character but the two of them work so well together. Pixar managers to get you feel and relate to their friendship. There is more than a few heart wrenching scenes between them.
Pixar movies (even at their weakest with “Cars 2”) have always dazzled viewers with their brilliant attention to detail in their animation (which is nearly unmatched by any other animation studio). “The Good Dinosaur” may not be as impressive story wise as “Inside Out” but it’s animation is actually superior. The landscapes and scenery look almost photo realistic. It’s striking how close to reality the animation becomes. But, while the landscapes are almost photo realistic the character models retain that classic Pixar feel . So, it never feels like you’re not watching anything other than Pixar.
The weaknesses of this film are there though. The voice talent of the film is fine enough but nothing sticks out as memorable as Albert Brooks as Marlin or even Dave Foley as Flick (in the often overlooked “A Bug’s Life”). Sam Elliot pops in there but not enough to make an impact. Jeffery Wright plays Arlo’s father and does good work but it’s honestly surprising the lack of memorable voice talent in the film. Raymond Ochoa is good as Arlo and Steve Zahn is memorable as the Ptyhdactial Thunderclap but the character is vastly underused.
As an animated film “The Good Dinosaur” is a really good adventure. It’s missing that little extra something special that Pixar manages to sprinkle into their films. However that doesn’t take away from the fact that I had a really good time watching this movie. This is charming, clever and, it’s got a lot of heart and emotion; “The Good Dinosaur” is worth the trip to the movies.