What would happen if the meteor that struck earth 65 million years ago missed? Pixar’s attempts to answer that very question with its second film of 2015 and 16th overall, The Good Dinosaur. The film follows Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a young Apatosaurus who becomes separated from his family and must go on an eye opening journey to return home. Along the way he comes across various individuals who are eccentric and all the more amusing. Sound familiar?
One of the main gripes the film has been receiving is its rather conventional story elements, which have been seen time and time again. Previously, Pixar has been known to take risks, including their recent dissection of human consciousness and battle of emotions in Inside out. The studio continues by taking a leap of faith with a much more traditional story, rather than pushing the boundaries of family films, which has been expected by most. This is partially due to the development troubles the film had, such as rewrites and come and go directors.
On a visual standpoint, The Good Dinosaur is by far the most breathtaking of any Pixar film. On several occasions, my mouth stayed agape, as my mind was tricked into believing the film was a live action nature documentary. From crisp rivers channeling through sedimentary canyons to flat terrains of a valley, the film portrayed the North American landscape spectacularly.
The character’s designs were just as appealing, as each species moved in a very unique manner that related to their personal traits. For instance, the group of Tyrannosaurus rexes were portrayed as cowboy like individuals who herd longhorns. Their movement alone transcribed this notion, as they galloped as if they were riding horses across the great plains of the west. Out of the three, the leader Butch, voiced by Sam Elliot, is the standout character. His voice alone encompasses the grit and disdain that he experienced in his past. The backstory in particular didn’t give a special element to the story, but acted more as a nice touch to the character.
From the very beginning, Arlo is established as the skittish runt of his siblings. From his short stature to bowl-legged limbs, Arlo is quite adorable. His fear for practically everything never gets too overblown or repetitive, as it fuels his overall character arc. When Spot (Jack Bright), a wildling human, comes into the picture, the meat of the film begins. As the two spend time together, they build a relationship that is both humorous and touching. While they don’t speak the same language, a connection is built between the two which drives the overall film. This relationship is what makes the film truly work, despite the conventional story elements. As the film progresses, the conflicting personalities align making the friendship grow strong.
There are indeed moments that seem radical, such as one scene that resembles an acid trip, but it fits the overall theme of the film, which is innocent fun. Still, like previous Pixar films, there are moments that seem very dark for a children’s film as well as the famous tearjerker scenes. Time and time again, Pixar has produced films that will have its viewers connect with as they grow from adolescents to adulthood, and this is no different.
The Good Dinosaur definitely lacks a vast catalog of memorable characters; however, the core of the film is supposed to revolve around a friendship rather than an entire ensemble. If you go into The Good Dinosaur expecting a new world that pushes the border of imagination, you’ll be disappointed. Taking familiar elements from classics, the film may seem a copy at first glance, but the humor and stunning visuals balance out the film and make it a solid addition to Pixar’s catalog.