Film Review: The Good Dinosaur - Falling Back to More Familiar Territory

Most likely an apology for the lackluster and overall disappointing film run Pixar Animation Studio has had since Toy Story 3 back in 2010, they decided to give not one, but two movies for 2015: Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. With the release of Inside Out earlier this year receiving universal acclaim, many were satisfied enough with that film. So does The Good Dinosaur do the same thing, or does it show that Pixar didn’t need to have two movies out in the same year?

The Good Dinosaur focuses on a little dinosaur named Arlo, who lives with his brother, sister, and parents on a farm where they grow corn for themselves to survive. Everyone there has made their mark on their family property by going beyond what is expected of them, except Arlo, who seems to be having trouble doing his duties and not being able to overcome his fear.

Eventually, Arlo must capture a critter who keeps eating their corn in order to finally earn his mark. He eventually catches him, which turns out to be a little boy, but lets him escape where the father takes Arlo to go catch the boy. The boy gets away and sadly the father is washed away after saving Arlo from a storm. A bit later, Arlo encounters the boy again and through some turn of events, both get washed away in the river where he gets separated from his family.

Being far away from home and having only the boy to be around, Arlo must now listen to what his father said to him and follow the river to find home. And through the journey, Arlo will eventually create a bond with the boy who he later names “Spot” and goes on an adventure where he meets all sorts of different characters and challenges that will test his fear.

For the team that was responsible for some of the most inventive and creative animated stories like in Toy Story, Up, and Inside Out, this story feels pretty weak. Most of what happens in this story has either been done in the past before, even by Pixar themselves, or the characters are just not very interesting to keep the familiar story more fresh.

Arlo is just an everyday character who is going through the “coming of age” gimmick that teaches him the ways of overcoming his fears. The father is nothing we haven’t seen before, being somewhat of a Mufasa character from The Lion King to Arlo where he gives him good morales and unfortunately has to leave him.

The villains of this film are the weakest villains Pixar has ever put out. They show up in the second half of the movie and their overall screen time averages around 10-15 minutes tops. There was no need for them to be here because the whole aspect of Arlo being out of his comfort zone was fine enough to be the movie’s greatest challenge, so the villains feel useless. The rest of the side characters are pretty forgetful too with them also showing up for barely any time to formulate thought into them.

Even with the boring story and most of the characters, their intentions were to really focus on Arlo and Spot, which is one of the best aspects of the film. While Arlo is not winning any points for originality, he does have a nice bond with Spot that is worth seeing them succeed in the end. Spot is fun to watch as he never talks,but his facial expressions and actions are able to show the audience how he feels. He’s like a mini Tarzan who can’t talk.

It’s cute to see them eventually get along and go on their adventure to get home, but admittedly, the way they start to get along also felt rushed.The transition felt a bit off and felt like they wanted to rush it to get the meat of the movie going. But overall, their interaction was enjoyable, especially the part when they’re sharing their family with each other. That was amazing by not really having either one talk at all and just letting their looks on their faces tell what’s going on.

The animation is definitely worth bringing up because this is one of the best looking animated films I have ever seen. Every shot and frame is breathtaking in the world they created and it’s just beautiful to look at. The only slight problem with the animation is that the background doesn’t seem to always mesh well with the cartoon look of the characters. Taking the surreal background to the cartoon natured characters looks distracting, but nothing to the point where it ruins the movie.

Overall, The Good Dinosaur is definitely better than the movies Pixar released between Toy Story 3 and Inside Out, but is still a far cry from the other amazing films the talented studio is known for. I was not really interested in this one to begin with so I guess I got a bit more out of it than what I was expecting since Inside Out already satisfied me enough to say Pixar redeemed themselves. This film is definitely aimed more towards the younger audience than both kids and adults, so keep that in mind if interested. In the end, The Good Dinosaur is not a bad flick, just nothing too extraordinary.