Film Review: The Good Dinosaur

We are all afraid of something.  Fear runs through our veins just like blood. It’s up to us to find the light that’s overshadowed by the darkness life throws at us.

The Good Dinosaur is a tale about conquering your fears and it’s not the Pixar film I was expecting.

There are no big revelations, there are no truly original characters that Pixar is known for, but there’s more than a few tear jerking moments.

This is not your typical Pixar movie.

It’s simple. It’s straightforward. Beyond emotional. It’s not interested in pushing the boundaries it’s previous films set.

Once you throw out the notion that this is not a film on the Up or Inside Out creative scale, you will understand that this is Pixar at it’s most vulnerable.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR

The main character, Arlo, is an accident prone Apatosaurus who is afraid of everything, including failing his family.

His family are farmers, because the astertoid that wiped out the Dinosaurs never hit Earth, leaving Dino’s to crop and run the Earth.

He’s the weakest of a strong family and his father, played with wonderful tenderness from Jeffery Wright, sees an opportunity for Arlo to earn his place on the family wall.

From the get-go, Arlo is one of the must vulnerable and emotional Pixar characters yet.

Even though he’s a, “big dinosaur”,  his legs are almost feeble and his voice is reminscent of the nice yet naive kids you grew up with.  Kind of like a less pathetic Ralph Wiggum.

I could tell everything that went into creating Arlo was meant to up the emotion to an eleven and it works wonderfully.

From the trailers, you can tell that a Arlo comes in contact with a little boy.

The event that leads them together, however, was emotionally devastating and was quite the shock.

Children were bawling in the theater and I even had to hold back a few tears. It made me think of how children were notorious for crying during The Lion King and Big Hero 6.

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After his home life is changed permanently, Arlo runs into the culprit of his new found life, a animalistic little boy named Spot. He tries to capture him and in the process, is lead astray from home.

This is when the movies starts it’s own path.

The early reviews for this film made me think this film was going to have no depth whatsoever. Luckily, there is quite a bit here to dig our teeth in.

Out of all the things Pixar has done, one of the rare things I’ve yet to see Pixar do, is create a film that felt like a “Disney” film.  They are almost like the anti-Disney because of all the creative choices they make in storytelling and resisting the urge to make death a big story point.

The Good Dinosaur sees Pixar go full on “Disney” and with the road trip inspired storyline, death, and of course…big emotional payoff at the end.  In the context of Pixar’s previous films, The Good Dinosaur feels very unique.

We are greeted to many guests, the obtuse Triceratops character feels straight out of a Coen Brothers film, and it’s interesting to see Pixar do such a film.

The characters aren’t all that memorable, but they are easy going and almost surface level.  Some may see this as a flaw, which it should be, but in the context of the story it works.  If every side character had the pay off Bing Bong had in Inside Out, I don’t think my heart, or the children in the theatre, could handle it.

Spot and Arlo are quite entertaining to watch though and makes it easier to forgive all the unremarkable characters.  Together they challenge each other and they take care of each other.

They share a simplistic yet lovely scene about what family means to them and yet again, children started crying.  I’m still surprised I didn’t cry during that scene.

The music of the film is robust, emotional, and goes perfect with the cartoony animation of the characters and the realistic nature of the environment they inhabit.

Oh did I mention that this is Pixar’s most beautiful film since WALL-E?

THE GOOD DINOSAUR

I love the way the eyes captured so much emotion, reminiscent of the amazing animation Hayao Miyazaki has provided throughout the years.

The landscapes look like something out of a John Ford film and the use of “shallow depth of field” adds a cinematic layer to the animated procceedings.

Bravo.

Although it seems like I’m raving about how good the movie is, it’s sadly not more than a “good” movie.

There is nothing wrong with that and making a good movie is harder than it looks, but it’s kind of sad that the movie didn’t rise above that.  I feel like if the beginning had a little bit more ambition, especially when Arlo’s family life is introduced, it would’ve been more emotional than it already was.

My favorite moment in the film is when Arlo and Spot are talking about scars with T-Rexs, who are like ranchers.  The head honcho is played by Sam Elliot and delivers every line with gruff infliction and makes everything he says sound profound.

His line, “If you aren’t afraid, you aren’t alive“, surprisingly spoke to me in a lot of ways.It was everything Arlo needed to hear to know that he isn’t the only one who fears life and it made me almost tear up.

Why is that?

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First off, I’m quite afraid of many things including; Life, commitment, and hiking.  However, I felt myself becoming Arlo as the movie went on and when the T-Rex said those words, it made me feel alright to be who I’am.

I hate to say it, the movie made me feel like a kid again.  I was able to have that feeling of excitement and sadness many of them felt and I’m almost ashamed I felt more emotion in this than I did in Inside Out.

From the Disney-esque storyline to the friendship of Arlo and Spot, Pixar has crafted another winner that has sadly been seen as less because of it’s simple story.

It’s an emotional film and I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes known as the new Lion King.

After director Peter Sohn was brought in to reconstruct the film from just beyond scratch, I was skeptical if The Good Dinosaur would succeed.

It does succeed and I applaud the film for succeeding on it’s own emotional and straightforward terms.

★★★½ Pixar’s beautifully animated tale of conquering your fears is worth watching.

 

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