“Dinosaur” clunky despite grand visuals
The bar has been raised so high for Pixar, its a wonder how they are able to make one story after another. I will still say the peak for the animation studio was Up. A movie that was able to present heavy themes of coming of age, dealing with loss and making the most of life for a simple idea. This summer, Inside Out nearly trumped that with a premise that has been done before but executed differently. The result was such an enjoyable affair that once again, I wondered just how far these animators and storytellers could go. However, for every good movie they make, there is one that isn’t full of the charm and wonder but at least you can see some form of effort. And this where I’m sad to say, The Good Dinosaur falls in the middle of this.
Once the end credits began to begin, I felt mixed and torn on this latest entry from the studio that showed what toys do alone and what monsters lurk behind our closet doors. One the one hand, this is a grand eye-candy visual of a film in terms of atmosphere. For a CGI movie, the water looks and moves like water, the trees sway like real trees and the ground these extinct creatures walk along is probably the most impressive I’ve seen from Pixar. However, I feel so much focus was spent on working on the scale textures and less on the story along with its concept.
The movie asks “What if the meteor didn’t kill the dinosaurs” as we see the giant space rock zoom past the Earth allowing the prehistoric beasts to evolve over time. What could have been a unique “Planet of the Apes” idea instead has the whole tone play out like a Western. Apatosaurus are seen farming, Tyrannosaurus runs a ranch with prehistoric longhorns and Velociraptors are cattle rustlers. These are interesting ideas for social class in this world but these three barley meet or play off each other outside of the last two mentioned. It seems the world of these creatures are more fixed on the reins of their environment as opposed to being one giant community as seen in Finding Nemo or A Bug’s Life. Perhaps it would have been better if somehow these three species played off each other more but the movie is more focused on finding a story as opposed to sticking with one.
A young Apatosaurus named Arlo is risked with trying to help his folks out while dealing with conquering his fears and making an impression on his siblings and parents. This is symbolized by a footprint placed on the rock wall of a silo as opposed to something that feels more earned like leadership or at least respect. If one were to predict the story already, a death in the family happens causing Arlo to be more traumatized and eventually gets swept down the river as he gets placed on a journey for home. In fact, the way he gets separated from his home happens so sporadically you could swear the movie is rushing itself.
Along the way, a human boy with a dog-like personality befriends him, named Spot by the worrisome protagonist, as the little caveman tries to help find his way home. Sad how this is the only strong element of the movie as we see how these two play off each other. The idea of a strong yet small cave dweller helping a dinosaur lends itself to some humorous moments and a couple of heartwarming ones too. Most notable is a scene when Arlo tries to communicate the idea of family to Spot with sticks and sand. Without giving too much away, it turned out to be one of the most well-executed scenes in the movie. However, it gets crushed by a twist near the end removing the heart touching feeling yet some of it remaining.
In a nutshell, there really isn’t too much to discuss seeing how paper thin the concept and story are executed. From what I heard, there were some production problems behind this one causing a major overhaul tossing out an entire cast and story. I do wonder what that other version would have been like in hindsight seeing it would have been fun to see John Lithgow as a dinosaur. The final result is really a Western with dinosaurs that has some unique ideas but doesn’t go any further. I feel bad as I can only imagine the amount of time those animators spent trying to perfect every rock and blade of grass but to match it to a movie that is barley sub-par. While I don’t feel this is the worst or even a bad movie, I am unfortunate to say this is an uneven one and from times surprisingly brutal for a Pixar film. Animals get swallowed in whole, some get nipped at the body, Arlo’s tripping over rocks come off as more painful than a minor injury and concepts of death seem to be tagged on as opposed to explored deeply as in Up (again, a much better Pixar movie). Which is why the real winner for the holiday season goes to The Peanuts Movie; a movie full of heart, deals with the subject of perseverance on a level kids can understand and a story that is easy to follow and simple. There are tons of great ideas in Good Dinosaur, especially a nice performance by Sam Elliot in a minor role, but if only these story elements and cliches were evolved into a better feature.
Also attached to the movie is a short called Sanjay’s Super Team, a short that explores Hindu religion in a way that is understandable to kids and adults. The story follows little Sanjay as he pictures the Indian gods and goddess as a group of superheroes. Surprisingly, a lot of matieral is covered in the span of 5 minutes from tradition to old vs. new as Sanjay’s father tries to get his son to understand the observance of the Hundu culture. How a short is able to present so much in just a short time as opposed to a full-length feature that goes nearly nowhere with its concept feels surprisingly to me. The idea of comparing ancient gods to how we view superheroes is a common theme as characters like Superman and Spider-Man are see as the modern “Greek gods.” And yet, I feel so much deeper ground is covered when we see Sanjay’s interpretation of these powerful beings and how well it pays off at the end. Here’s hoping this one gets the Oscar for Best Animated Short.
Posted on November 28, 2015, in In Theaters (Sort of) and tagged Animated Short, Apatosaurus, dinosaur, Disney, In Theaters, Pixar, Sam Elliot, Sanjay's Super Team, The Good Dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptors, Western. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.