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.
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.
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.
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