Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Title: The Good Dinosaur
Release Date: November 25, 2015
Director: Peter Sohn
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Pixar Animation Studios

In 2015, I had dinosaur-loving children aged 8 and 4 and somehow this movie still flew under the radar.  It’s a Pixar movie that came and went with little fanfare, and although I’d hope to discover a diamond in the rough, I can understand why it left no mark.  The concept is good as it tells a story of an alternate universe where dinosaurs do not go extinct and evolve to use language and perform tasks like agriculture.  Also, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, although it seems odd to have cartoonish animals in such a realistic setting.

The story focuses on Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a small and clumsy Apatosaurus who is unable to keep up with his parents and siblings in making a positive contribution to their farm. His father, Poppa Henry (Jeffrey Wright), is killed in a flash flood while pursuing a “critter” who is eating from their corn silo.  Later, Arlo tries to catch the same critter (who is a small human boy) and they are both washed downstream.  Arlo and the boy – who behaves in a dog-like manner and is named Spot (Jack Bright) – must form a partnership to find their way back up the river to get home.

The buddy-road-story meets child-finding-his-place-in-the-world-story feels overly familiar.  Obviously, Pixar can use familiar tropes to make something new, but they fail to do so here. Instead they’re overly reliant on swelling music and big speeches to create emotion that feels unearned.  The movie does get better as it goes along and I enjoyed some gags such as a paranoid Styracosaurus with a menagerie of animals in its horns or a surreal scene when Arlo and Spot eat fruit that’s gone rotten.  Overall though, it’s disappointing that a movie this basic has Pixar’s name on it especially since it has potential to be something better.

I would say that overall the simple and gentle story might be good to watch with younger children with the caveat that there are some terrifying scenes with pterodactyls hunting down animals.

Rating: **

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