The Good Dinosaur
The Good Dinosaur
Director: Peter Sohn
Writers: Peter Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann, Bob Peterson
Voice Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Maleah Nipay-Padilla, Ryan Teeple, Jack McGraw, Marcus Scribner, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, Mandy Freund, Steven Clay Hunter, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, David Boat, Carrie Paff, Calum Grant, John Ratzenberger
Synopsis: An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for peril, action and thematic elements
Stevennix2001's Rating and Summary Review if you don't want to read the long one below
8 / 10
- Great animation; especially the backgrounds that look photo realistic
- Touching story, with a lot of humor and suspense.
- Likable characters that are well developed
- Pacing was good
- The cinematography was great, as it really helped immerse you into this world dominated by dinosaurs and mammals.
- Humor was funny
- While I'm not the biggest fan of the "boy and his dog" shtick, I do like how this film focuses more on Arlo's own insecurities, and how he learns to overcome them over the course of his adventure. Sure, it's still a paint by the number "boy and his dog" movie, but it has enough heart to it that it's forgivable.
- Voice acting was decent
- The 3-D version was amazing, and it's definitely worth the extra money if you can afford it.
- Very predictable cliched story
- While the animation is great, the only minor nitpick i have about it is the fact that the surprisingly photo realistic looking backgrounds does make the surrealistic characters look out of place.
Another spin on the boy and his dog story arch
While I'm not the biggest fan of the "boy and his dog" type stories, I'll admit that there are ways that you can do it right, while still somehow making it feel fresh and nuanced. And surprisingly, "The Good Dinosaur" does just that. Granted, it's nowhere near the masterpiece that Disney gave us earlier this year in "Inside Out", nor would I say it's anywhere near as great as "The Peanuts Movie" or "Shaun the Sheep." However, if you're looking for a fairly simple movie that the entire family can enjoy, then it's worth checking out.
Granted, there are some scenes that might frighten kids, like a flying pterodactyl eating a critter alive. While in another scene, you'll see a T-Rex telling a story to our young hero about how an alligator bit off half his face, so he bit him in half, and then he drowned the other one in his own blood. However, if you're fairly sure your kids can handle those types of scenes, then "The Good Dinosaur" won't be too bad for them.
The story takes place in an alternate universe, where the meteor that allegedly wiped out the dinosaurs never came into fruition, as it misses our planet completely. Fast forward millions of years later, and the dinosaurs have evolved to some degree. Granted, you won't see any of them driving any cars, or anything of that nature. However, we do see that they evolved to a point where you have some dinosaurs that use various tools to plant crops, while T-Rex's specialize in rounding up longhorns for food. In a lot of ways, it's almost reminiscent of the old western days, when people used to live off the land; minus all the guns and clothing of course.
Anyways, our movie follows a young dinosaur named Arlo, who happens to be the runt of the family. He's also a bit of scaredy cat as well. This often makes him the target of bullying by his elder brother, Buck, and it causes his parents to worry sometimes if whether or not he'll survive on his own once he gets older.
At the beginning of our story, Arlo's parents create a shelter to hide all their crops from critters, as they also leave a footprint on said shelter as a way to symbolize how they left their mark in life for something bigger than themselves. Afterwards, they tell their three kids that if they want to put their mark on the same shelter, then they would have to earn it.
Transition a few scenes later, and both Arlo's older siblings earn their marks for doing their respected assigned chores perfectly. However, Arlo still continues to struggle doing his, as his only job seems to be feeding the chickens for his family. Although I tend to wonder why the hell would a bunch of apatosauruses want to feed and raise chickens, but the film never addresses that question. Maybe they just like eating the eggs or something. I don't know.
However, poppa comes up with a way for Arlo to earn his mark, which leads to him inevitably meeting a young human boy named Spot, who has all the mannerisms of a dog. Without giving away too many spoilers, Arlo ends up getting separated from his family after a series of unlikely events, and he's forced to find his way back home. Luckily, he's not alone, as Spot joins him on this adventure.
Like most 'boy and his dog" stories, they don't necessarily get along at first, but they eventually bond. Become friends and yada yada. Typical "boy and his dog" story arc shtick that I'm sure everyone reading this has seen a million times before. Nothing really new there; with the notable exception of the boy being the dog in this case. And like most stories of this ilk, it basically plays out exactly how you expect it to. No real surprises, as you can pretty much tell how the movie will play out, after watching the first thirty minutes of it. In fact, I'd argue that the short animated feature that premiered before this film has more originality than "The Good Dinosaur."
However, what saves "The Good Dinosaur" isn't so much how it ends, but the adventure along the way. Unlike most "boy and his dog" stories that primarily focus on the relationship between the boy and his pet, this one focuses more on inner demons and struggles of Arlo himself. As i mentioned earlier, Arlo has grown up being a scaredy cat most of his life, and it even leads to the loss of his father along the way. Needless to say, Arlo lives with that guilt everyday since, and we see Arlo often blaming himself for being scared, as he yearns to be fearless like his father. But as one T-Rex voiced by Sam Elliott said, fear isn't something you can run from, or get rid of. It's like mother nature itself. You can't beat it, but you can work through it. And if you think about it, that's quite a powerful message for any movie to deliver to it's audience.
On the surface, this may seem like a stereotypical cliched "boy and his dog" film. However, the reality is that underneath that surface lies a story about a character overcoming his fears and insecurities in life. It's a film about love and loss. And it's a story about how it doesn't matter if your scared of a lot of things, but what truly matters is how we work through life itself. To quote Martin Lawrence's mediocre comedy, "Courage is not the absence of fear. It's the presence of fear, but the will to move on anyway."
"The Good Dinosaur" may not be anywhere near the quality of some it's other Pixar counterparts, but for what the film happens to be, it's not a bad one to check out. It has heart, and a deeply moving story with lots of humor and suspense along the way. Most of the characters are fleshed out, and I love how they were able to make Spot relatable even if you couldn't understand what he was saying.
As for the animation itself, I'm not going to say it's horrible or anything of that nature. Quite the contrary, the animation is quite unique in itself. Featuring photo realistic backgrounds that almost make the surrealistic look of our characters seem a bit out of place. Granted, it does give the film it's own aesthetic identity, but it becomes distracting because half the time I found myself more enamored by how beautiful the backgrounds were versus getting lost in the story. Not saying it ruins the entire movie, but it's a minor nitpick that's worth pointing out.
Overall though, "The Good Dinosaur" is a decent family adventure comedy that I'm sure the kids will enjoy watching this holiday season. And if you can afford to see it in 3-D, then I would definitely recommend it, as the visuals are stunning to look at in 3-D. But even if you can't afford it, or you can't stand 3-D, then it's still worth checking out anyway.
© 2015 Steven Daniels