by Adam Riske
I wanted to enjoy The Good Dinosaur but I just couldn’t. While not without some positive elements, Pixar’s latest is ultimately forgettable, especially on the heels of their brilliant effort from earlier this year, Inside Out. Whereas that movie was filled with rich themes and beautiful animation, The Good Dinosaur can only claim the latter. This is a gorgeous looking animated movie. It’s sad that the story it illustrates is so shopworn and undercooked. It’s like they took The Land Before Time, An American Tail and The Lion King, put them in a blender and served.
The plot in brief: The Good Dinosaur posits the scenario in which the asteroid that struck Earth and caused the extinction of dinosaurs missed the planet and life continued for the species. We follow an Apatosaurus named Arlo who is separated from his family and along the way makes an unlikely friend in a feral human boy he names Spot. While searching for his way home, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears.
The themes are also underdeveloped. The Good Dinosaur is mostly about responsibility, making your mark and overcoming fear (since Arlo is a dinosaur that is afraid of almost everything). However, the movie oddly never really explores why Arlo is afraid and just comes to a pat conclusion that everyone is at least a little afraid and it’s something you have to get through. I think the filmmakers missed an opportunity to really explore fear as a theme in this movie. If Arlo were afraid because of a fear of failure or fear of the unknown, that could have been explored in an interesting way for a kids film, but in its current state there is very little there other than a base interpretation.
Watching subpar Pixar bothers me more than most other movies because it’s so disappointing considering what the brand normally represents. Not since Brave have I been this letdown by a Pixar movie. Despite being a kind film and featuring a likeable, sweet and simple lead character in Arlo, the movie just isn’t very moving or even entertaining. It sort of meanders from scene to scene with a draggy energy, making the short run time feel long. I also don’t think the movie is good for young kids, since it’s sort of dark and bizarre in tone by the usual Pixar standards (e.g. there’s a scene where a bug has its head ripped off, another where Arlo and Spot are hallucinating on psychedelic berries and one where a dinosaur eats another animal). What a mess.