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Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur

Updated on June 12, 2020
Samuel Brookes profile image

Samuel studies Classics at the University of Oxford. When he's not reading Greek Tragedies he's probably watching a Pixar film.

The Good Dinosaur is the ugly duckling if the duckling were also completely useless and terrified of everything (including other ducklings).

It follows the story of Arlo, the third and tiniest dinosaur, an Apatosaurus for those in the know, who gets swept away by a river and has to find his way back home to his family but never does… just joking… this is Pixar so we can pretty much assume a happy ending. Within these predictable formulas Pixar is generally excellent at creating strong and interesting characters. The Good Dinosaur is not a good example. In a nutshell, Arlo is an infuriatingly timid scaredy-cat who becomes a bit less useless when he eventually finds home. One might be mistaken into thinking that any of the secondary characters during the film such as the oddball Styracosaurus might grace us with their presence again at the end of the film. While I was watching the film I was convinced that Arlo was going to amass an army of helpers to prevent his family’s farm from going to ruin since this was something that was clearly presented at the beginning as a problem that needed to be resolved and there wasn’t enough hands on deck to keep the farm going. But this does not happen. So, I never quite understood the point of the secondary characters other than getting Arlo from A to B. And the farm is no better off.

I also have a problem with the pacing. It’s slow. Sooooo slow. Despite the mesmerizingly realistic animations of the vistas and the attempts to create poignant moments between Arlo and his caveboy companion, the plot is lacklustre. You could quite easily go for a toilet break in the middle of the film and come back and miss nothing important. The general tone of the film was all off. There was none of that humour that works so well as a counterpoint to more emotive scenes. The death of Arlo’s dad, a disquietingly shocking moment, is relayed by, well, the family’s mourning period, which is relayed by Arlo himself idiotically getting washed up by the river’s current.

There was something inconsistent going on with vegetarianism as well. The good dinosaur would much rather nourish on the hearty meal of some red, (turned-out-to-be) trippy berries than any of the meaty offerings the caveboy brought him. The baddies of the film – the pterodactyls – are on the other spectrum, ripping from limp to limp any juicy meaty mortal they can get their talons on. So, (I think) there’s a pro-Go Veggie message going on here… even the T-rexes are unexpectedly not interested in eating Arlo and so are good. But nor do I think that the T-rexes are living off berries.

All of this to say, it’s noticeable that they had to finish the film in post-production. Not a film I would recommend on the grounds that it’s just not that engaging.

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