‘The Good Dinosaur’ Review

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Director: Peter Sohn

Writer: Meg LeFauve

Voice Cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Frances McDormand, Jeffery Wright, Marcus Scribner, Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, and Sam Elliott

Synopsis: An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Disney and Pixar are arguably one of the best pairings in Hollywood, sure they’ve had their missteps – I’m looking at you Cars and Cars 2 – but for the most part they two studios always manage to create beautiful stories and great effects that blend nicely together, and always seems to get better with each outing. However, The Good Dinosaur was one of those rare films that the studio had a hard time getting together. The film was plagued with behind-the-scenes troubles, even recasting the director and changing the story halfway through production which delayed the film. Of course, the important thing is, it is any good?

The Good Dinosaur begins by showing the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs missing Earth and fast forwarding to show that dinosaurs have evolved and learned some techniques like building shelters, wrangling animals and agriculture. The film centers on Arlo (Ochoa), an Apatosaurus who struggles to fit into his family his fear of almost everything. His father, Poppa (Wright), tries to get Arlo to face his fears which leads to a tragic event that eventually puts Arlo face-to-face with Spot (Bright) a feral human child who speaks through grunts and howls. With Arlo far away from home and his only companion being Spot, the two travel through the unforgiving wilderness and face many obstacles that stop them from reaching home.

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The story for The Good Dinosaur is rather simple; Arlo is lost and is trying to get back home to his family. Which, of course, is one of Disney and Pixar’s primal focus’ and when their films succeed.  It’s necessarily a bad thing, the “family” moments and focus really works and pulls at your heartstrings the way Pixar and Disney have been known to do. However, the overall execution doesn’t work all that well and it comes off a bit formulaic, which is kind of a shame because The Good Dinosaur had some great opportunities to be more.

Despite some of the films pitfalls story-wise, The Good Dinosaur excels in the visuals. Seriously, The Good Dinosaur may, or is, Pixar and Disney best technical film. Visually the film is amazingly beautiful to look at, and at times it looks like we’re looking at real locations. I think The Good Dinosaur may be thankful for the delays because it gave the studio and everyone involved more time to go on the photorealistic visual effects.

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The compassion between Arlo and Spot really makes the film work as well. Arlo is the fearful one that runs away, while Spot is the fearless and brave one that will defend and standout to any, if not, all the dangerous they come across. Spot, for all intent and purposes, is like Arlo’s dog and make the journey between the two feel like a “man and his dog” story. The two’s journey is the only real story aspect that makes the film work and seeing the journey from beginning to end was something that will connect with everyone and is one of the best Disney and Pixar character arcs I’ve seen.

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One of the surprising things about The Good Dinosaur is how they treat the wilderness. Even for me the film was a bit too realistic when it comes to the pecking order of dinosaurs. There are moments when dinosaurs are saying they are going to kill one another – and they actually use the word kill – or when Sam Elliot’s T-Rex character Butch tells a story about how he got a scar. It did throw me off how the film goes to certain levels, especially when it comes to Steve Zahn’s pterodactyl character named Thunderclap. It’s not me being nitpicky or saying “how dare they!” just more of an observation that I made.

All in all, The Good Dinosaur does have some great moments in the film that are classic Disney and Pixar. However, it seems like at times the film is more focused on giving us fantastic visuals – which the film is loaded with – rather than give us a more better story. The Good Dinosaur may not be Disney and Pixar’s best film, but it certainly isn’t its worst.

 

The Good Dinosaur

4 out of 5

 

‘Jurassic World’ Review

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Dir: Colin Trevorrow

Writer(s): Colin Trevorrow, Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, Vincent D’Onofrio, BD Wong, Lauren Lapkus and Irrfan Khan

Synopsis: Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It’s been around twenty years – in real life – since we first saw the original Jurassic Park hit theaters. The movie pushed the boundaries and arguably rejuvenated the industry in terms of special effects and animatronics. The first film holds a special place in many people’s hearts, including mine, so when Jurassic World was announced, it had many of us skeptical about how this new movie would hold up against the original that had great moments and characters. Well, guess what, Jurassic World is a great sequel to the original and does have great moments and some good characters.

 

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Because the saying “learn from your mistakes” apparently doesn’t exist in this world, Jurassic Park, now called Jurassic World has been open for a few years now on the same island, Isla Nublar, where the events of the first film took place. John Hammond’s dream of a theme parked filled with real life dinosaurs has come to fruition thanks to industry billionaire Masrani (Khan), who wanted to carry Hammond’s wish. The park is run by Claire (Howard) who is under a microscope to get the park’s numbers up. Cue the new genetically mutated, hybrid dinosaur: Indominous Rex, bigger, faster, and of course, more deadly.

 

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That’s not Claire’s only problem, she also has her nephew’s Zach (Robinson) and Gray (Simpkins) coming to visit for the week. Gray is thrilled to be there and wants to visit everything possible, while Zach rather be elsewhere and not babysit his younger brother. The other storyline is raptor trainer and ex-Navy solider, Owen (Pratt) who sees not just his raptors, but all dinosaurs as something that should be respected and that they are animals living in a different time, and are not theme park attractions that can be controlled. He also has his problems with InGen worker Hoskins (D’Onofrio), who thinks Owen’s raptors can be used for something more.

 

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There is a lot of moving parts in Jurassic World, and some of them work really well while others fall flat or are underdeveloped or underwhelming. Of course the idea of creating extinct animals could be seen as a noble one or, like in this case, an easy way to make a ton of money, but dinosaurs? I mean come on. So who do we have to thank for the dinosaurs in Jurassic World? Well none other than the only returning character from the original film, Dr. Henry Wu (Wong). He also was the one that design the Indominous Rex for the park to spike audiences and sponsors interest. Then it breaks out and sets off a chain of events that lead to all out chaos that echoes what has happened in the past. It’s almost one of the running themes in the series, that greed and maybe even hubris overtake our rational side of thinking. Because seriously, making a new dinosaur? Really? Especially how the Indominous Rex is so damn terrifying. It’s big, fast, and doesn’t care what is in its way. The Indominous Rex is a great addition to the dinosaur villains.

 

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But, and this is something that is also bought up in the movie, is our (general public) need for more our downfall. Director Colin Trevorrow is almost making fun of the public’s need for more as all throughout the park are noticeable and big name brands, making Jurassic World not just a speculate, but also a marketing darling.

 

The other theme is relationships, and Jurassic World goes back to its roots and gives us two great younger leads opposite two great adult leads. The relationship between the two brothers feels genuine and Robinson and Simpkins play well off each other. The relationship could have gone a little deeper, because there is a potential for it. As for Claire and Owen, they have an interesting one. They went on a date that was memorable for the reason you wouldn’t think. The two are exact opposites of each other and it works at the beginning, but once things go, well, Jurassic Park-y the both of them realize they need to work together, which leads to a somewhat forced romantic arch. I say somewhat because it comes and goes and isn’t in our face so much like others we’ve seen.

 

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Now, to the thing I know everyone will complain about: the CGI. Yes, Jurassic World’s dinosaurs are mostly CGI. Some of it looks absolutely great and it works for what they are trying to do and makes sense why they would go the CG route, and it’s not because it’s easier. It’s not a complete departure for the series. The first Jurassic Park did have animatronics and touched them up with CGI to make the dinosaurs look even better than they already did. Luckily, there is an animatronic dinosaur in the movie and it is a great scene at that. I don’t want to go too much into the scene, but the scene will bring you back to the first movie.

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Speaking of that, Jurassic World isn’t a reboot, it is a continuation to the series. However, it doesn’t try to forget what came before it. It embraces it and not going pays respect, but pays homage and stays a bit within the spirit of the first movie. The good thing is that it doesn’t do it to rehash the ideas or even say “hey, look at it!” Jurassic World is its own thing, but it reminds us that we’re all fans and Trevorrow is remember what made this series and first movie so special.

 

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Going back to the cast, it is the cast that makes Jurassic World also work. Pratt isn’t a goofy character, not that his character doesn’t throw in a few witty one-liners, he’s probably the most serious character we’ve seen him in a while. Bryce Dallas Howard is a great female character that learns the errors in her ways and has a nice character development moment. Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus appear as control room workers that have great character moments and are pretty much the default comedic reliefs. BD Wong finally gets worthwhile big screen time (his character in Jurassic Park book is more of strong supporting character), but his character coming back isn’t fully developed which is a shame.

 

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When it comes to the “weak” (I say weak for the lack of a better word at the moment) cast members, it may surprise you that Vincent D’Onofrio is one of them. His character’s motivations automatically make him the human villain, but the way his character presents himself is sometimes a bit too much or a way a character in that kind of position shouldn’t really be acting like. Omar Sy, who plays Owen’s friend, gets the short end of the stick and doesn’t get a lot to do, so we really can’t blame him. Judy Greer’s short appearance as Claire’s sister and Zach and Gray’s mom is interesting to watch, but considering he literally has about three scenes, I can’t put her high up on the list.

 

All in all, Jurassic World pays respect and captures the spirit the first movie and if you’re a true fan of the series you’ll catch the homages and cool Easter Eggs thrown in there. There are fantastic moments in this and I couldn’t believe that a movie could make me feel like a kid again, even if it was for a minute. Does the entire movie work? No, some things are left open and just pushed to the side, but you can almost forgive them after experience all the great moments. Jurassic World is a ton of fun, and isn’t that what’s most important in a summer movie? I think so.

 

Jurassic World

4.5 out of 5

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