The Good Dinosaur: A Review.

Film: The Good Dinosaur.
Directed by: Peter Sohn.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 100 min.

This is a Pixar-Disney animated “boy and his dog” coming of age, feel good animated film but with dinosaurs and cave boys. Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the youngest of a farming Apatosaurus family, loses his father to Disney’s Death-of-parent(s) syndrome while chasing a pesky caveboy varmint. Another encounter between the two causes Arlo to become lost with the cave boy far away from home, and the two have to work together to get Arlo home.

From the technical end of things, we have an interesting juxtaposition of a very cartoonily designed protagonist with some rather realistic blend of scenery and texture and moments of very real moments of physical pain. When Arlo gets hit in the head with a rock, you can almost feel it. The sense of physical presence is always appreciated in a film, if a bit surreal.

The music was refreshingly subdued for a movie from something associated with Disney. If there was any character song numbers in this it likely would have hindered this film, especially given the choice in visuals and a strong technical choice.

Moving on to the character end of things, we have Arlo the main protagonist, who is a bit of a adorkable scardy-dino, yet tries so hard to “make his mark” in his small corner of the world (subtle guys, really *rolls eyes*). His personal journey was interesting to watch, a well done progression of struggle and personal growth worked well through-out his journey back, and Arlo himself is somewhat likable, with Ocha doing a good job with Arlo’s voice, which well wit the main character’s personality, a professional job for his breakout into a big main character role such as this.

Spot the faithful caveboy (Jack Bright) definitely wins the best expressions in this film. We aren’t given much to go on in terms of what his story is, but then again, this is more focused on Arlo, and Spot is the “dog” in this relationship, and not much is expected in terms of character depth for the “dog.” His efforts in keeping Arlo alive was fun to watch, and his design blended better in the rocky outback environment then the dinosaurs’ that inhabited it.

The side characters were fun here and there with the rancher tyrannosaurs family (Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, and A.J Buckley) especially engaging, and the choice to make the antagonists the storm chaser gang of pterodactyls lead by Thunderclap, who was hilarious by the way, more side characters then main protagonist foils was a good choice in this instance. It was very much about Arlo conquering an aspect of himself and that’s where the main conflict should reside, with the storm cult being merely there as incentive for Arlo to overcome himself.

Finally, we move onto the story.

This is perhaps where the movie was somewhat weaker. It wasn’t a bad story, they utilized the overused boy and his dog journey formula well, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a cliché. The premise was promising; the devastating meteorite that many postulate was the reason behind the extinction of the Dinosaurs misses the planet in this reality. Unfortunately the follow through was…well, not bad, but more safe then anything. There was no envelope pushing here, something odd for a Pixar, which at least tries in most of its films whether the execution was good or bad. Here there was nothing overly memorable about the story. It felt like they didn’t really know how to handle the possibilities of the premise, as if they had decided on the relatively safe formula first and the premise second.

The only other nitpick would be that the fact that the caveboy was displaying obvious moments of intelligence and communication with Arlo that should have been reacted to with a great deal more shock or at least some level of surprise, given the fact that the dinosaurs look at these beings as critters worth for killing, eating, or making pets of, in general how humans treat beings with non-sentience. This isn’t the first time that films have done it though, so let’s just throw our hands up in the air on this one and shrug.

Overall, the movie is a decent watch. There is some good animation, some funny and touching moments that really give you the feels, and some decent characters. It is a generally safe film that most ages can watch, if not entirely ground breaking or uniquely memorable, but nevertheless entertaining for an afternoon at the movies.

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