The Good Dinosaur Review
The Disney movies have followed the same sort of pattern. They all have told stories that if you put your mind to something and you do your best and try your hardest then everything will be alright. The Disney films teach us that sometimes we may have to sacrifice apart of ourselves, but we can still be the people we want to be if we try hard. Its a sweet message, and I am blown away that Disney has been able to make so much money on this idea. I shouldn't be surprised though, the movies Disney makes are geared toward family and children, of course this type of idea resonates with that crowd so well. I guess when you see so many Disney movies, they all sort of mesh together after awhile.
It always seemed to me that Pixar was the counter-balance to that. Pixar was almost the Anti-Disney in some ways. Pixar told stories that rivaled the company that helped make their movies. Pixar has always been interested in a different kind of story, something that could unite children and adults in the theater together. That is what they have been good at since 1995. That is why we flock to their movies like ants to a cookie. Even if you have a family or not, you can find something to relate back to each and every Pixar movie, and it seemed it would never be any other way. Then they slowly sloped down to Disney's level, and made movies we've come to expect from Disney, not Pixar. After "Toy Story 3" in 2010, they went sequel crazy as well and it seemed one of the most reliable studios in the business had finally run out of gas. There was a new hope this year in the studio, though. "Inside Out" flattened me when I saw back in June, and I had high hopes for "The Good Dinosaur."
Raymond Ochoa provides the voice for Arlo, an Apatosaurus who grows up wanting to do something brave, go on some rich journey that will prove his worth and bravery. His father Henry (Jeffrey Wright) sees this, and has his son accompany him to trap animals for food. One day, Arlo and Henry trap a caveboy, but Arlo is too reluctant to kill him. Disappointed Henry takes Arlo tracking for the caveboy, which leads to a devastating accident when Arlo looses his father. At this point, is it really a spoiler that the father dies and is out of the picture. I am pretty sure that has been a stable for both Disney and Pixar for awhile now, so something tragic happening to the dad was no surprise to me. Arlo now lives with his two siblings and his mother Ida (Frances McDormand). A few days after Henry's death, Arlo spots the caveboy and chases it in a fit of rage, and both Arlo and the caveboy fall into a river and are swept away. They must rely on each other to get back home once they both find ground.
If you didn't think it was a spoiler when Arlo's dad dies, would it really be a spoiler to learn that Arlo and the caveboy become friends, and that Arlo even gives the caveboy the name Spot? Would it be a spoiler if I told that Arlo's journey home with Spot is the very thing Arlo needed to prove his worth and bravery? Out of any movie that Pixar has made so far, this is the biggest Disney module of a movie. I am even including "Cars 2" and "Monsters University" in that list. Although, I will say that I don't think "The Good Dinosaur" is "Cars 2" bad, I just think its the most safe Pixar has ever been in their entire lifespan, and I never would have thought in my personal lifespan that I would refer to Pixar as safe.
Still, while being a safe movie, there is still so much of classic Pixar on display that it is tough not to sort of love the movie. There is a moment late in the movie where Arlo and Spot are showing each other their definitions of family and it is awfully heartwarming, as is the moments Arlo and Spot spend together before the credits roll. There is some very good humor laced throughout the entire movie. There is some good voice work done by Ochoa, Wright, and McDormand. There is also other good work by Sam Elliot, who voices a T-Rex who runs into Arlo. Sadly, Elliot doesn't have as much time in the movie as I had hoped, and its a little silly that they could have edited his entire scene out and the film would have ended exactly as it did. Anna Paquin and Steve Zahn also provide voice-work, but again, they are on and off.
The movie also plays with the idea that this is an alternate timeline. A timeline in which the dinosaurs survived the comet that hit them. In the opening moments, we see that comet whiz by the Earth and no harm is caused to the dinosaurs. Can I ask what relevance that has on the story? Can I ask why that's so significant? Can I ask why the filmmakers went there in the first place if it had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie? If it was only to show dinosaurs as farmers, then I think it makes little sense thematically. Especially coming from the studio that made movies about talking cars that don't haul people around.
I know it probably sounds like I am being profoundly hard on "The Good Dinosaur." But let me set the record straight, "The Good Dinosaur" is a good movie. It didn't knock me down like "Inside Out" did. Its nothing special, but its also nothing horrible either. After Pixar had some hard downtime, I think that is a miracle all to itself. That even lesser Pixar can still pull out the magic on the audience.
FINAL GRADE: B