The Good Dinosaur

Genre: Animation

Director: Peter Sohn

Screenplay: Meg LeFauve

Voice Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Maleah 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, Dave Boat, Carrie Paff, Calum Mackenzie Grant, John Ratzenberger

Running Length: 101 minutes

Synopsis: The Good Dinosaur asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo (voice of Raymond Ochoa) makes an unlikely human friend called Spot. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of.

Review: The Good Dinosaur revolves around one central “what if?” – what if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs never hit Earth, and dinosaurs managed to survive for millions of years more? Although an interesting proposition, the story on show in The Good Dinosaur is extremely simplistic, and even in the hands of Pixar, the film very nearly feels like it’s a little too sparse in the plot department. Fortunately, it is Pixar after all, and the studio still manages to turn the film into a somewhat absorbing hour and a half, filled with cute critters, interesting vignettes and some of the best environmental animation I have ever seen in an animated film.

Although the setting is a bit off-kilter, the story of The Good Dinosaur develops in a very classic Disney style. After a rather predictable tragedy befalls Arlo’s family, Arlo gets (again, predictably) separated from his family and has to fend for himself – until he meets Spot. Yes, the reptile has a human pet, and this is just the beginning of a plethora of rather odd situations that film thrusts its viewers into. An extended sequence sees Arlo interacting with a family of T-Rex “cowboys”, and in one of the strangest sequences ever in a Pixar film, Arlo and Spot consume some hallucinogenic fruit and end up getting high on them. There’s a very good reason why the Good Dinosaur is rated PG, and parents of very young viewers may find this film to be somewhat unsuitable for their consumption.

Look past this general weirdness, and there are some gems to be found in the film. It’s filled with cute critters (and a number of rather disturbing ones) and there are sequences which are very fun to watch while not adding much to the main plotline. And to Pixar’s credit, they managed to include one extremely well executed sentimental scene where Arlo and Spot communicate their family history to each other with minimal dialogue. And whilst Arlo isn’t the most memorable central character in a Pixar film, the environmental animation certainly is. It’s incredible what Pixar managed to achieve here, with photorealistic environments that seem so lifelike I had to question if what I was seeing onscreen was culled from a nature documentary, and not digitally rendered 1s and 0s.

Despite all the visual splendor and a generally enjoyable viewing experience, it is undeniable that The Good Dinosaur firmly seats itself in the second-tier section of Pixar’s studio output. To have to follow an excellent film like Inside Out isn’t an easy thing to begin with, and the unyielding quirkiness of the storyline does the film no favours either.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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