With a Pixar movie already out this year (Inside Out), I was a little apprehensive knowing there was a second one later this year since we don’t see that often. Added on top of that, The Good Dinosaur had a host of issues regarding the script, particularly with wrapping the final act and had multiple re-writes. With that as the backdrop, Pixar still found a way to deliver.
By Kenneth Shipp
What would happen if the asteroid that would have wiped out the dinosaurs missed? That question doesn’t fuel the movie, but it does provide us with another interesting backdrop as Pixar has established in other masterpieces time and time again. Millions of years past the event that would have wiped them out, dinos are found raising crops, herding cattle (more on that in a moment), and humans are just now figuring things out slowly but surely.
Enter Arlo, a very shy and easily scarred Apatosaurus who lives on a farm with his father and mother, Henry and Ida, along with siblings Buck and Libby. We see the various ways that they plant, tend, and harvest crops. Henry shows them what it means to make their mark, or accomplish something important. When they have contributed to the family farm in a meaningful way, they can stomp their foot in the mud and mark the family corn silo. The older siblings quickly make their marks on the silo but Arlo is too afraid of the chickens he tends in order to accomplish his mark. This will lead to his father giving him a different task of catching the thief taking their corn and here’s the beginning of Arlo’s journey.
Right off the bat, you may be thrown off with the new universe they have constructed. However, there are other moments later in the film that will endear the dinos roaming the Earth to you. Arlo’s adventure to get back home will put him in direct conflict with the little human thief, who he names Spot, and various other animals that come across his path. All the while Arlo is dealing with his fears and grief in a very strange and new place for him.
The communication between Arlo and Spot is not on the same level as EVE and WALL-E, but it’s pretty darn close. There’s one moment that they share when they explain/draw their respective families to each other. When you realize what they are saying between the lines is just painful to see unfold. This is one of the more powerful scenes in the whole story and setups up an even better moment at the end. You may even get a little teary eyed during both if you make the connection. Dang Pixar playing with our emotions as always.
There is another animal twist similar to the sharks in Finding Nemo. We would expect T-Rexs to behave like the predators we’ve known from Jurassic Park and other media. But this twist leaves them as tough cattle wranglers. It sounds ridiculous, but leads to some of the best moments in the whole film and gives Arlo chances to shine and grow. Sam Elliot voices the lead rancher and his presence adds the right amount of charm and credibility to their profession. His voice was the best way to communicate the feeling of safety with his group and sell the T-Rex rancher idea. There’s some other twists like that throughout the movie and they work well to move the story along.
This has to be one of the best designed Pixar films to date. It looks gorgeous and is miles above what we sometimes get with other animation studios. They spent an enormous amount of time on the look and textures, like the bruises on Arlo, rain and water effects, which looked impressive. When the animation can be this good and not distracting to the experience, it has to applauded.
I sort of had a problem getting into the premise for this one early on, but was able to slip into it fairly well. My main complaint was the death scene towards the beginning that I felt could have gone a bit differently. It was also eerily reminiscent and looks comparable to the wildebeest stampede from The Lion King. That may or may not have been what they were going for, but it still makes that kind of an impact or reference. I think if they had tightened up a few keys areas in the beginning, it would have made a world of difference. Despite those minor issues, the Pixar touch is still there and evident in this one, as they may get your waterworks going at the end as always.
The Good Dinosaur: 8.5 out of 10
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