Overview: A dinosaur and a young boy build a friendship as they find their way back home. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2015; Rated PG; 100 Minutes.
The Good Dinosaur: When hearing the name Pixar, one automatically thinks of memorable, multi-dimensional characters and mature themes conveyed through storytelling that is easily conveyed to children. These fundamentals are almost effortlessly imbued in the studio’s latest film, even if it’s not quite as masterfully presented as before. Enter The Good Dinosaur, whose story is centered on Arlo, a cowardly but motivated dinosaur who is separated from his family. Arlo’s character arc is obvious from the first few minutes of the movie, but it’s beautiful the way the story develops his arc through his friendship with the character Spot, a human child. The two characters’ friendship is truly the most remarkable aspect of the film, because it nails the same beats and chemistry of classic Pixar friendships, such as Mike and Sully, Marlin and Dory, and Buzz and Woody, but through mostly silent animation. The best scenes in director Peter Sohn’s film are silent sequences focusing on two characters who don’t understand what the other is saying, and who are forced to connect through strictly visual means. As Inside Out can attest to, Pixar has become proficient in the art of silent filmmaking, and their films have become better because of it.
The Bad Dinosaur: However, the film is not without its fair share of problems. While properly conveying and developing an unlikely friendship between two characters, it seems Pixar has forgotten that the backdrop of this film is “a prehistoric era where dinosaurs were never killed,” as the idea is never used to its fullest extent. Unlike Inside Out, which delved into the craziness of an emotional mind, or Ratatouille’sembrace of the wacky inventiveness of having the main character be a rat who loves to cook, The Good Dinosaur simply leaves its story to be just another unlikely friendship, narrative arc. I think the craziest place this film went was when it gave its dinosaur characters Southern accents. Simplicity is nice sometimes, but some added flavor would’ve stopped the film from being merely generic.
The Ugly Dinosaur: Other than that, The Good Dinosaur is a really weird film. It tries to make mature jokes, like cutting a character short as he is about to say a cuss word, or employing a scene that is suggestive of the effects of doing drugs. Content-wise and tonally, such instances go against the film entirely and disrupt the flow of its cinematic experience. Not only do such passages mark an unusual direction for a Pixar film , they’re just generally bothersome inclusions within the context of a film designed for young audiences. What’s worse, most of the supporting characters are forgettable at best, the antagonists of the film don’t really have a presence at all, and the supporting characters that do matter to Arlo’s journey show up to provide minor thematic beats throughout before exiting the picture entirely.
Overall: The Good Dinosaur is not a bad film, but it definitely falls in the mediocre pile of animated movies you may forget in a couple years. If nothing else, it reaffirms our confidence in Pixar’s ability to deliver heartwarming stories about friendship.