The Good Dinosaur(2015)
- RatedPG /GenreAnimation
For the first time in its history, Pixar has doubled its formidable presence on the big screen with two cinematic releases in the same year.
Well, why shouldn’t it? November 2015 marks 20 years since the acclaimed animation studio released its first feature film with 1995’s ‘Toy Story’.
And two decades after making its grand entry, Pixar continues to push the boundaries in the imaginative world of animation.
In a way, the two Pixar releases of 2015 complement one another. With the critically acclaimed ‘Inside Out’, Pixar proved its superb ability to dive deep – literally – into its characters and the human condition.
With ‘The Good Dinosaur’, it strives for the exact opposite.
Placing Pixar animator Peter Sohn at the helm of a feature film for the first time, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is all about the outside world, flaunting breath-taking animation and stunning visuals that remind us why Pixar firmly retains its spot as a leader in animation.
But such dedication to its extremely impressive exterior came at a cost, namely the film’s ability to make all this grandeur actually mean something.
SOARING WITH VISUALS AND CUTENESS
Tiny, feeble and timid to his core, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is a young Apatosaurus struggling to find the courage to match his giant and formidable family. When a series of unfortunate events rips Arlo away from his family, the young dinosaur must overcome his fears and find his way home. Fortunately, he finds a companion in the feral human boy Spot (Jack Bright), and the two form a bond that transcends their species and the dangerous world around them.
A coming-of-age film, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ actively seeks to immerse its audience in the hostile yet beautiful world that its protagonist is tossed into. And immerse its audience, it does. The film boasts the kind of jaw-dropping animation that prompts viewers to peer closer and double-check that the scenery they are looking at is not real.
Having worked as an artist and animator on six Pixar films, director Peter Sohn’s artistic expertise is clearly evident here. He more than captures the magnificence and vastness of prehistoric Earth, effectively transporting his audience into a world that is almost tangible and visually breath-taking, to say the very least.
And keeping viewers rooted in this world is the friendship that emerges between Arlo and Spot. Arlo holds his own as the underdog protagonist, but Spot is the one who easily steals the show with his magnetic cuteness, charming disposition and a bite that is worse than his bark.
The feral human boy is the latest in Pixar’s consistent ability to design characters that win over genuine affection and attachment from the audience. Spot is the kind of character that viewers become protective of, and he is the source for much of the film’s emotional investment, humour and chair-gripping moments.
FORMULAIC AND FORGETTABLE
Unfortunately, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ reiterates a recent reluctance by Pixar to deviate from formulaic, adventure-themed narratives. Indeed, the studio has repeatedly proven capable of rising above such narratives by standing out and impressing in other areas. But with visuals aside, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ offers little more than its thin and thoroughly predictable plot.
Relatively uneventful, the film is littered with characters that come and go with minimal impact. A-list cast members such as Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin and Steve Zahn are underused behind one dimensional and slightly odd characters. Sohn himself voices an amusing Styracosaurus that turns out to be little more than a dispensable cameo appearance.
What holds the film together is the commendably developed relationship between Arlo and Spot, which provides enough substance for the audience to cling on to. But ‘The Good Dinosaur’ struggles to develop such material into affective and impressionable moments. It is unfortunate that the film has the potential to be a tear-jerker but ultimately falls short of that.
For all its stunning animation, visual achievement and entertainment value, ‘The Good Dinosaur’s’ inability to make a genuine impact relegates it to being one of the more forgettable adventures among Pixar’s illustrious original films.
At the end of the day, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ struggles too much with a worn-out narrative to capture our hearts the way it does our eyes.
'The Good Dinosaur' opens 26 November 2015