A young dinosaur is separated from his family and must journey back home.
Peter Sohn, 2015
Millions of years after the meteor that killed the dinosaurs in our universe bypassed Earth, young Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is an apatosaurus living on his family’s farm. The nervous young dino feels overshadowed by his older brother and sister, and struggles to impress his Poppa (Jeffrey Wright). When Arlo lets a young food-stealing pest go instead of killing him, Poppa takes him out to find the pest and drowns. Arlo is later swept away from the farm chasing the creature. He wakes up miles away and starts the long journey home. Along the way, he forms an unlikely friendship with the food thief, a little boy whom Arlo needs Spot (Jack Bright). Arlo and Spot encounter a variety of quirky characters and, you know, find themselves on the way back.
The Good Dinosaur has the most beautiful CGI-rendered landscapes I’ve ever laid eyes on. The background visuals are so incredibly sumptuous that I am 100% positive that if you took all the characters out of this film and just played the score over an hour and a half of the landscapes, it would be a better film. I have no earthly idea why Pixar decided to put the most cartoonish-looking characters they’ve ever created on top of those gorgeous backgrounds. Arlo and the weirdly nipple-free Spot just don’t work on top of the photo-real backgrounds. The lacklustre visuals might not have been as big of a problem had the story been up to Pixar’s usual standards, but this is their most pedestrian effort ever. There’s nothing about this boy-and-his-dog journey that feels new. The alternate universe they’ve created doesn’t feel fresh or fleshed-out well enough to stand on its own; the novelty of seeing dinosaurs farming or herding cattle and humans acting like wolves wears off much too quickly. You’re left with a coming-of-age Western journey that doesn’t bring enough of a twist to earn such a simplistic narrative.
This isn’t to say that the movie’s all bad. There are a few genuinely touching moments, such as the boys bonding over lost loved ones, but they’re few and far between. There are also a few humorous moments, but again, not enough to keep the pace. For the most part the story just meanders from one episodic encounter with kooky characters to the next. Some of these characters work better than others – there’s a funny stegosaurus, and Sam Elliott’s honey-over-gravel-voiced T-Rex is fantastic – but they’re largely dull. It’s also incredibly conservative. If there’s one thing Pixar have always done before, it’s push the storytelling envelope, but this film doesn’t even do that. The families are nuclear, with a strict one-girl-two-boys structure. I saw this in the middle of the day on Sunday, and the film failed to keep the attention of the numerous kids in attendance. They enjoyed the faster-paced action scenes and the funny bonding scenes, but frequently got bored when Arlo and Spot travelled from one encounter to the next. The pitch for deeper themes didn’t quite connect, either, especially since none of it feels new or fresh. It’s all recycled storytelling, and Pixar can do so much better.
The Good Dinosaur on IMDb