The Good Dinosaur (2015) Review:

Director: Peter Sohn

Runtime: 93 minutes

Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Raymond Ochoa, et al…

Plot (taken from IMDb): In a world where dinosaurs and humans live side-by-side, an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.


The good dinosaur image one

The Good Dinosaur suffered from a troubled production. Throughout the film we are reminded of this fact through an inconsistent tone and slightly sporadic themes. This isn’t one of Pixar’s best, but I enjoyed my time with the movie regardless.

Right off the bat, The Good Dinosaur is gorgeous. I didn’t believe that a lot of what I was seeing was pure animation. The backdrops are so life-like and stunning that this is a film that puts a lot of live-action forays to shame. The trouble is, the characters on top of the backdrops are simple, with slightly goofy designs. I felt that the two art-styles never quite meshed. Sure, the animation is superb, but it took a bit of getting used to.

What took the most getting used to however, was the shots of just an Apatosaurus’ head. They aren’t the prettiest of the dinosaurs, and their tiny heads placed up on a long, gangly neck didn’t make for the most interesting single head shots. Within the first few minutes you forget about this stuff however, and you are taken into the colourful world of Arlo.

the good dinosaur image four

Arlo is a scaredy-cat, which is bad considering he comes from a family of tough farmers, who are resilient against the odds. Arlo’s dad in particular is worried for his son, so he decides to go out of his way to make Arlo less scared. This ends in tears. When out on their trip, Arlo and dad get trapped in a torrential storm, which culminates in a terrifying flash-flood. Spoilers. The flash-flood kills Arlo’s dad. Sad for a kid’s film, yes, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Arlo survives, but is left to fend for himself. He meets a young human boy, who starts off annoying, but the two grow to depend on each other as the film goes on. Here we have the main meat of The Good Dinosaur: This is a film about finding your own feet, discovering who you really are. Arlo finds himself in some pretty daunting situations, but it is up to him to figure out how he goes about them. For a film about discovery, you’d expect some great locations to go alongside the narrative, and The Good Dinosaur doesn’t disappoint.

The vistas are breathtaking. Each environment is brimming with life, and a lot of what I liked about this film was found in its environments and secondary cast of characters. Each area Arlo visited brought with it its own group of wacky characters. Some of these encounters are hilarious, and others serve to carry on Arlo’s development. I particularly enjoyed the Western section of the film, despite the tonal and thematic shift. It helped to move the plot along and we got to meet a nice group of meat-eaters, who aren’t quite as scary as they may initially seem.

The Good dinosaur image two

There are some very funny moments throughout The Good Dinosaur. It’s possibly the least subtle in terms of humour from Pixar, but I liked the change in direction and writing. The comedy was a nice surprise, because without it, The Good Dinosaur would’ve been quite uninteresting. Pretty, but uninteresting.

Whilst watching the film, I couldn’t help drawing tonnes of comparison’s with Ice Age. The themes aren’t quite the same, but it plays the same emotional cards, at around the same times. Everything in The Good Dinosaur has been seen before. Nothing about this film is particularly groundbreaking and it all comes across as rather unoriginal – quite unusual for Pixar.

The good dinosaur image three

It rises above this downfall however. Its soundtrack is excellent, its voice-acting is great and the story does move about at a nice pace. The Good Dinosaur is at its most impressive however when it lets the visuals do the talking. Set-pieces in the film are visceral, quieter moments are beautiful and throughout, the environments are spectacular. I ended up liking the strange mixture of art-styles too, as it made the film more approachable for the little ones, who won’t be so blown away by the lush backdrops.

The original idea behind the film is good, and this is a film that was made with good intentions. Thankfully, despite its unoriginal plot and themes, The Good Dinosaur never comes across as flat. Its characters are all likeable, and the places we get to see are breathtaking. It’s a film with its heart firmly in the right place and good family entertainment.

Summary:

The Good Dinosaur is a decent family film. It suffers from being unoriginal, a strange mesh of art-styles and an uneven tone, but rises above its issues. It’s likeable, funny and breathtaking throughout, despite the mishmash of art-styles. It’s heart is firmly in the right place too. It doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of the best of Pixar, but that’s okay.

3.5/5

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