Pixar films are a victim of their own success – and (fair or not) Pixar films are held to a higher standard. “The Good Dinosaur” (opening in theaters nationwide Nov. 25) is a good animated adventure in its own right, but does not stand shoulder-to-shoulder among the Pixar greats.
In short: In a world where dinosaurs were not eradicated by an asteroid millions of years ago, a young Apatosaurus named Arlo finds himself lost and far away from his family. During his perilous journey home, he befriends a feral human boy named Spot and must find the courage needed to make his way home. (watch the trailer)
“The Good Dinosaur” has a genuinely moving thematic core – one that values family and finding courage despite feeling scared. This latest Pixar flick is at its best when it develops and explores the relationship between Arlo and Spot — which begins contentious (to say the least) and grows into something quite familial.
The general weakness of all Pixar film is that they all eventually degrade into chase movies. The best ones are great in spite of these simple sequences (“Up,” “Toy Story 3”) while others are denied greatness (“Wall-E”). Sadly, “The Good Dinosaur” is mostly chase sequence — investing only the minimal amount of storytelling effort in developing its themes and characters.
To its credit, “Dinosaur” is a beautifully animated movie. The photo-realistic animation is quite impressive. At times, the background and environment looks like it was shot in the real world and animated characters were added later. Unfortunately, the character design clashes with the animated environments — Arlo and every dinosaur in the movie looks out of place. The characters are obviously cartoonish and their surrounding environments are not — this can be distracting at times.
Thankfully, “Dinosaur” has enough sharp humor and genuinely moving moments to uphold the Pixar legacy. This is a odd and incredibly funny movie – especially the pecular horned dinosaur (who keeps a band of interesting animal friends) and a very “Dumbo”-esque scene where Arlo and Spot are briefly, perhaps, under the influence of some foods that do not agree with their minds. (Yep, they get drunk or high off some bad fruit — and it’s pretty hilarious). And it wouldn’t be a Disney movie unless an important character is killed – thankfully, the filmmakers don’t simply use that event as just a plot point — it is a traumatic event that haunts Arlo throughout his journey.
Final verdict: “The Good Dinosaur” has a moving and dramatic core – wrapped in a story that is just a series of chase sequences featuring supporting characters who do not stick around long enough to care about. Luckily, Arlo and Spot keep this story heartfelt, entertaining and heartfelt.
“The Good Dinosaur” has a running time of 100 minutes and is rated PG for peril, action and thematic elements. This film opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 25.