The Good Dinosaur: Film Review
Vocal cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliott
Director: Peter Sohn
A Pixar film is usually a treat, a piece of animation that touches the heart with its story and characters as well as impresses the eye with its sumptuous work.
So, it's a surprise to say that The Good Dinosaur isn't quite up to scratch in the story department.
Positing the idea that the meteors that hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs never actually struck but zoomed past, The Good Dinosaur concentrates on a family of Apatosaurus dinos who work the land. Into this family is born fearful dino Arlo, the runt of the litter who struggles to find his place.
When tragedy hits the family and the father's killed (so far, so Lion King), Arlo ends up accidentally getting lost. With only an orphaned cave boy, Spot, whose sole behaviour is like a dog, Arlo begins the long and arduous journey home. (A la Incredible Journey and Homeward Bound)
The Good Dinosaur merely hisses where perhaps it could roar.
Mixing in the entirely unoriginal story of a lost character making their way home and having a few adventures while undergoing some life lessons on the way with a Wild West story is an odd mix that doesn't quite hang together as it should.
Which is a shame as technically, the movie is excellent.
Backgrounds, dirt and prehistoric mountain ranges sizzle - the environments look incredibly realistic and feel like they've been filmed and the dinos and other creatures super-imposed over the top. It's perhaps just as well the backgrounds are so immersive that you're not as distracted by the lack of what's going on in the foreground.
Because simply put, the main story is somewhat of a damp squib, an under-developed journey that goes from A to B, with little time for any major characters and interactions - unless it's to ram home the message of earning your mark on the world by doing something big for something bigger than yourself.
That's not to say the leads don't interact well and their relationship doesn't work well. Both Arlo and Spot are given a few funny and touching moments together throughout, but more often than not, these feel like perfunctory ends to moments and wouldn't feel out of place within a short film (in fact, at times The Good Dinosaur feels like a short film that's been over-extended and not fleshed out). It's a shame because the truth that resonates within Spot and Arlo's bond will keep kids engaged throughout - and there's not enough of that within. But the other problem is there's not enough of a connection between Arlo and his family; roughly sketched over at the start of the flick, the film fails to find the centre and stretches the connection too far.
The Good Dinosaur may revel in some of the darkness of life but the unoriginal journey and poorly padded out story makes it feel like Pixar's hit a rare bum note; it's a rare mis-step of a film that doesn't quite do enough to keep the kids as engaged as they should and doesn't do enough to keep the adults on side either.