Director: Peter Sohn
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Raymond Ochoa, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, John Ratzenberger
Written by: (also story) Meg LeFauve, (story) Peter Sohn, Erik Benson, Kelsey Mann and Bob Peterson
Running Time: 100 mins
Release date: 27th November 2015
The Good Dinosaur has had issues. Pulled from being released last year due to production problems, plot arguments and troubles in the Pixar camp, it finally arrives with a new director from a revitalised studio still riding on the success of Inside Out. Unfortunately, the sixteenth movie from the animated studio suffers massively from coming out after the summer smash and those production problems show enormously.
Arlo is a young dinosaur living years after the asteroid that supposedly wiped out the prehistoric creatures missed. Being the runt of three, he lacks the bravery of his elder brother and yet wants to prove himself to his father. When tragedy strikes, Arlo is left longing he was tougher, when he finds himself miles away from home and only a human boy with dog-like qualities as his only companion. Arlo and Spot, the boy, must find the river that takes them back to his home.
Pixar have always been at the fore-front of animation and here they show just how good they are with breath-taking scenery that looks more like a photograph than something produced by an animator. The details of the trees, rocks and assorted forests and mountains are certainly a high-point of the film. However, what doesn’t sit comfortably are the main characters, especially Arlo, with his big eyes and enormous feet, it all seems out-of-place.
The storyline lacks any originality. After the triumph of Inside Out, as well as other offerings from the studio, they have plumped for an almost retelling of The Incredible Journey mixed with Finding Nemo and a dash of The Lion King (even to the tragic event been an almost carbon copy of Mustafa’s demise). So as we follow Arlo and spot’s long trip home, you find yourself concentrating on the background more than the action in front.
Then there’s the tone of the piece. Where Pixar win over other animated studios, even Disney, is managing to mix comedy and pathos. To have us laughing out loud then reducing us to tears in the blink of an eye. The Good Dinosaur is relentlessly depressing, removing any form of humour and replacing it with scene after scene of heart-tugging and heavy emotions. One moment that does work is a scene in which Arlo tries to describe to Spot what a family is, by using twigs and surrounding them with a circle. This powerful, silent sequence is the kind of thing you’d expect from a Pixar film (just think of the opening of Up). Yet we get moments like this throughout, so in the end , we are almost numb with dramatic sequences.
It is also shockingly violent, another side of Pixar we haven’t seen before. A group of pterodactyls, who Arlo meets on his journey, literally throw a small, furry, cute creature into their mouths which had one child at the screening I attended, almost screaming the building down.
The Good Dinosaur should have been easy stuff for Pixar. yet with its uneven tone, scenes of extreme peril and lack of light relief, this is a message heavy, rather depressing experience after the genius that was Inside Out. Hopefully, this is the last of Pixar’s less impressive works and we can get back to the creative, imaginative and fun movies we have come to expect from them. With Finding Dory on the horizon and Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2 not far behind, we can maybe brush over this experience and move on to bigger and better things.