Review: The Good Dinosaur Is Very Good But Not As Good As Inside Out
Title: The Good Dinosaur
Director: Peter Sohn
Screenwriter: Peter Sohn (story by), Erik Benson (story by), Meg LeFauve (story by), Kelsey Mann (story by), Bob Peterson (story by), and Meg LeFauve (screenplay by)
Principal Cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, and Steve Zahn
Summary:An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.
Pixar is having a good year. The absolutely fantastic Inside Out came out this summer and unified everyone in being yet another Pixar movie that cuts out your heart, steps all over it, and makes you love every second so much that you cry. However, I was a little worried about The Good Dinosaur because it has to follow Inside Out which might be one of Pixar’s best films to date. I didn’t know that much about it going in, aside from the fact that it was a “what if” story when it comes to the extinction of the dinosaurs. I was on board because I love dinosaurs and have found them fascinating since I was a little kid. Also, Inside Out restored a lot of faith I had lost in Pixar due to its mediocre sequels over the last few years.
The Good Dinosaur might suffer simply by having to follow Inside Out, but on its own the stunning animation and a story that gets you in the end it is still another strong entry in the Pixar filmography.
I was a little surprised, about halfway through The Good Dinosaur, that Pixar had done something of a bait and switch when it came to the genre of movie they were selling. At its very base levels The Good Dinosaur is a Western. It’s subtle at first but the further along the movie goes the more obvious it becomes that we are watching a Western about a kid that gets separated from home and has to make his way back with the help of a protective but lovable animal friend, only in this case the kid and animal roles have been reversed and we have a dinosaur as our kid and a kid as our animal. Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is still reeling from the loss of his father (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) and not quite fitting in with the rest of his family. When he gets swept away in the river and is far away from home he comes across a human he names Spot (voiced by Jack Bright). Spot is more animal than human but he’s just human enough that he doesn’t become off putting. The movie also isn’t subtle about the whole “humans being the most dangerous predator” thing.
The story isn’t anything special which is kind of a shame for a Pixar movie. You can usually count on new and interesting stories from Pixar movies and this one was just kind of paint by numbers. Arlo is smaller and always afraid but must find his courage to get home. We’ve all seen these beats before and there isn’t a moment throughout The Good Dinosaur that took me by surprise. The story stumbles for a bit but once it finds its groove it’s entertaining enough. It’s fairly basic beats might be annoying to the adults in the crowd but the kids who don’t have genre fatigue will love it. Spot likes to howl and when I was walking to my car I heard kids howling at each other in the parking lot. I imagine there are going to be some parents writing angry letters to Pixar as their child starts to constantly howl.
Once the movie finds its stride The Good Dinosaur wastes no time tugging at our heartstrings. I’m not going to lie that by the end I was crying, but when I was asked if I cried by another critic my response was simply “it’s a Pixar movie”. The screening I saw was in 3D and while I don’t think it added much to the experience I didn’t walk out with a migraine. I’m going to say that the 3D isn’t really needed when it comes to this one so you can save your money. The water animation in this movie are some of the best that I have ever seen. There were moments when I thought I was looking at real water instead of animation. Also, make sure you get there on time because the short beforehand, Sanjay’s Super Team, continues Pixar’s tradition of absolutely amazing short films. It didn’t make me openly sob like Feast did before Big Hero 6 but it did make me smile.
The Good Dinosaur is the second Pixar movie we have gotten this year and unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by the previous movie. However, compared to the “cash in” sequels that have littered the animation genre for years it’s another welcome change. It’s a cute little family movie that kids will probably enjoy a little more than adults, but overall The Good Dinosaur is a movie that can be enjoyed by all.