Earlier this year, Pixar knocked it out of the park with “Inside Out,” a beautifully animated film that focused on the emotions of a young child and hit home to so many people. With “The Good Dinosaur,” the animation giant has achieved something it has never done – release two movies in one year. And while the studio once again proves that it can create extraordinary scenery, “The Good Dinosaur” suffers from being too similar to other achievements by Disney and other companies.
“The Good Dinosaur” creates a hypothetical scenario about how dinosaurs could still be alive if the asteroid that was set to kill them ended up missing Earth. Millions of years later, dinosaurs are still around and live ordinary lives. They have families, grow farm land, and enjoy life. Our main story focuses on a couple of Apatosauruses (voiced by Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand), who are getting ready to have children. Two small eggs hatch, revealing a girl they name Libby, and a boy that likes to beat things with a stick whom they call Buck. Everyone expects the giant egg to be the biggest of the trio, but it turns out to be the runt. They name him Arlo.
Life is hard for Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), as he struggles to be as successful as his brother and sister. As they get ready for the winter season, Arlo gets separated from his family. His journey back home has him meet a rambunctious baby caveman named Spot (Jack Bright), who will eat or bite on just about anything that crosses his path, and also encounter some other interesting characters that will transform him.
When Spot first appeared onscreen, I immediately thought of a character from the Fox/Dreamworks feature, “The Croods,” which focused on a family of cavemen that went on a journey after their cave had been destroyed. “The Good Dinosaur” has “The Croods” beat in the animation department, no doubt, but as a whole, the character of Spot just made me want to revisit “The Croods” more than it made me want to see what Pixar was going to do with him and Arlo.
Arlo is not one of the most memorable characters the company has produced, and his adventure is one that won’t be remembered for years to come. Though he’s young and inexperienced, he comes across as too whiny in some instances. There’s more interest in some of the supporting characters that appear briefly onscreen.
“The Good Dinosaur” relies too much on standard Disney formula, and doesn’t try to distant itself from it like Pixar has in the past with “Up,” “Wall-E,” and this year’s “Inside Out.” There were some characters that felt like they were descendants of the hyenas in “The Lion King,” and there are some moments derived from that movie.
One of the more surprising things about “The Good Dinosaur” is how it lacks in solid humor and emotional pulls. A lot of the jokes land with a thud, including one where our characters get high after eating some strange fruit. The life-changing moments are mostly shrugged off, and don’t leave the viewer misty-eyed like they intended.
Even some of the animation is lacking for a Pixar film. Shots of fields and water streams are all rendered perfectly, and have a very real appearance that made it look like live action and not animation. But some of the dinosaurs and other creatures look like they came from some other production company, not Pixar.
“The Good Dinosaur” is nowhere near as bad as Pixar’s worst film, the unnecessary “Cars 2,” but it feels subpar when looking back at all the other standouts from the studio.