The Good Dinosaur Falls Short of Extraordinary
- Ryan Duncan
- Updated Feb 21, 2016
DVD Release Date: February 23, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: November 25, 2015
Run Time: 100 min
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Director: Peter Sohn
Cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin
*Author’s Note: Before I begin my review of The Good Dinosaur, I feel it’s important to say a few words about Pixar’s new animated short, Sanjay’s Super Team. The story revolves around a young Indian-American boy who grows bored with his father’s religious meditation and begins to imagine the Hindu gods as superheroes. Sanjay’s Super Team is funny, clever, and beautifully animated, but given how it touches on aspects of the Hindu religion, Christian parents should be prepared to talk with their children before they buy any tickets.
Audiences have come to expect certain things from Pixar movies. We want them to make us laugh. We also want them to make us cry. We want to be dazzled by their exquisite animation, and intrigued by original storylines. We crave those deep, discerning messages they convey to us through their rich casts of characters.
While The Good Dinosaur certainly has all the pieces of a classic Pixar film, they never quite form a unified whole. The movie feels jumbled, indecisive, and ultimately falls short of Pixar’s usually pristine standards. This doesn’t necessarily make The Good Dinosaur a bad movie, it’s actually quite good. But for a studio that prides itself on not only meeting viewer’s demands, but exceeding them, this recent entry emerges as something of a disappointment.
In The Good Dinosaur, Pixar turns back the clock and asks, “What would the world be like if dinosaurs never went extinct?” For an answer, we're introduced to a young Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa, Mr. Peabody & Sherman) who lives on a rural farm with his family. After losing his father in a tragic accident, Arlo is determined to conquer his fear and “leave his mark” upon the land. When a series of events leave Arlo separated from his family, the gentle dinosaur must journey homeward in the company of an inquisitive caveboy named Spot. Together, the pair battle monsters, befriend a family of T-Rex, and discover what love and courage truly look like.
The Good Dinosaur has plenty to offer, and audiences will see this from the beginning. The film’s animation is top quality, probably some of the best this reviewer has ever witnessed. Its story will pluck at your heartstrings, and Spot’s ability to wordlessly convey the pain of loss is especially moving. Above all, casting Sam Elliott (The Company You Keep) as a cowboy/T-Rex was a stroke of genius that should not go ignored. And yet, it’s never quite enough.
The Good Dinosaur tries too much, and ends up tripping over itself as a result. It can’t decide what it wants to be; a dinosaur movie? A coming of age film? A western? An adventure of courage and friendship? For any other movie this wouldn’t be a huge issue, but the success of Pixar means audiences are demanding more, and the film already has to distinguish itself from Inside Out.
To make matters worse, there are movies which have told this story much better than Pixar. During my time watching The Good Dinosaur, I couldn’t help but compare it (albeit unfairly) to The Land Before Time. Both movies featured dinosaurs and powerful themes of loss, love, bravery, and growing up, but The Land Before Time proved the greater film because it kept things simpler. The same could be said about The Lion King, which had similar concepts to The Good Dinosaur but was more decisive. Both of these films succeeded because they chose a direction and stuck with it.
While The Good Dinosaur will never make it onto anyone’s Top 5 Best Pixar Films, it will delight children and keep adults mildly entertained throughout its run time. It was a noble effort by Pixar to try something new, and while not everything worked, it still produced an adventure worth taking.
Cautions (may contain spoilers)
- Drugs/Alcohal: Spot and Arlo both become inebriated and hallucinate after eating rotten fruit.
- Language/Profanity: A few death threats are made, some voices are raised.;
- Violence/frightening Moments: Arlo’s father dies early on in a flash flood, Arlo and spot are attacked by a number of beasts on their journey home including a pterodactyl who devours a small mammal and tries to eat Spot,Arlo and three T-Rex fight against cattle rustlers, one T-Rex tells a story where he “drowns a crocodile in his own blood”.
- Religion/Morals: There is a strong message of family and learning to face your fears throughout the film, a pterodactyl claims the storm “provides for him”.