An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.
Pixar’s latest effort (their second this year after the stellar ‘Inside Out’) is one of their weaker efforts in recent years (the ‘Cars’ series excepted) and it hasn’t been taken to by audiences to the same extent as most of their work. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that it doesn’t feel like a Pixar film, with the influence of Disney perhaps more apparent here than in any other film since they bought the brand. It feels more like a Dreamworks animation, which is not a criticism per se given the strength of some of their recent output, but they’re operating on a level beneath the best Pixar has to offer. Part of the problem is we’ve come to expect more from Pixar productions, and whilst ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is a good animated film, it’s not anything close to approaching peak Pixar.
As the title suggests, this film is about dinosaurs, although it takes place in something closer to the Neanderthal age with the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs missing the earth in the opening sequence. The trajectory at the beginning veers very close to ‘The Lion King’ as it follows a young Apatosaurus called Arlo from a farming family who is trying to follow in his father’s footsteps. When he’s swept away from his family after he falls into the nearby river, he tries to get back to them with the help of a little caveboy (think an even younger Mowgli) called Spot. Perhaps surprisingly, the world features an extremely limited amount of humans (beyond Spot) and a lack of dinosaurs as well. Whether this is by design or not, it leads to a sparse atmosphere and ‘The Good Dinosaur’ lacks the strong supporting characters required to bring the setting and the story to life.
As expected with Pixar, the voice cast are great (Sam Elliott a particular highlight) and the scenic cinematography is beautiful to look at, but the narrative is fairly simple and the path followed is well trodden. It’s a sad story and Pixar have always dealt well with emotions and melancholy, but it lacks the uplifting feeling at the other side, and I think some young children may struggle with that. ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is an enjoyable animated movie, but it doesn’t hit the heights we’ve come to expect from Pixar, nor does it touch ‘The Land Before Time’ at the pinnacle of animated dinosaur movies.
Directed By: Peter Sohn
Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A. J. Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn and John Ratzenberger