Quick Hit: A visual spectacle that falls short of the story status that Pixar usually claims.
Let’s start off by saying that I am a huge fan of Pixar films. I loved them as a kid, and I love them as an adult. I think that animation is a medium that is extremely underused and can be a wonderful way for parents and their children to spend time together. However, I can’t give this film all the glowing reviews I could many others (Inside Out) because it just seems so… recycled.
Don’t get me wrong. The Good Dinosaur is not a bad film. In fact, it’s pretty good overall. The story of Spot and Arlo is one that lots of people will recognize, no matter how old you are: a boy and his dog. The main characters are fairly loveable, and I can’t say enough about the animation of this film. Technically, this film is breathtaking. If you pull your eyes away from the characters and look out at the landscapes, it is almost enough to make you forget that you are watching animation. Indeed, some of the first scenes with Henry on the farm make you swing your eyes back to the dinosaurs, which are obvious animations, just to give yourself some more perspective.
However, it is that familiarity that hurts The Good Dinosaur more than anything. Pixar is known for new ideas that make grown-up and child alike laugh and cry. The emphasis there, for anyone that missed the bolded text, is new. This film recycles so many ideas from other films. I am going to go into some minor spoilers here, so don’t read the next paragraph and just skip to the end if you are so inclined. I tried to give you some space with a photo here.
This movie is just a reiteration of The Lion King. I typed into my film notes that this film was Mufasa for the next generation. I mean, how many kids were scared by Mufasa’s death? And here’s another father dying as his son watches. Sure, it’s all about growing up and your father never truly leaving you, but come on. Another idea that seemed familiar was the T. Rex cowboy type characters. They seemed eerily (at least their introduction) similar to the sharks in Finding Nemo.
There are a couple other things that didn’t really hit home for me. There is a scene where Spot and Arlo enjoy some fruit that is one the ground. The implication is that the fruit has spoiled and fermented, leaving our child characters drunk (or high?). I though Disney had gotten past the pink elephants phase of Dumbo. Not only is this sending a message to children that are way too young to understand it, it is nightmare fuel on the highest level.
In fact, there is a lot of terrifying elements in this film for someone young. One of my little guys is just a bit south of three, and he watched this with me. He was pretty mesmerized by it, and didn’t really react to some of the scares, but I actually think he is too young to understand the horror. There are religious fanatics, there are inbred (possibly) hillbillies… anybody else recognize these themes from famous horror films? Getting past the scares, this movie is just plain sad. Indeed, other reviews I have read have said that this film is "engineered to make you cry". Growing up is hard, but at least some kids films have the decency to be happy the majority of it. This is like Secret of Nimnh!
All in all, it’s like I stated before. The Good Dinosaur is not a bad film. However, it contains several elements that just aren’t fitting with the plot, it feels recycled, and just isn’t up to Pixar’s standards. But, kids seem to like the bright, colorful visuals and the loveable main characters. I’m going to give this film a generous B-.
Check out IMDB for more information about The Good Dinosaur.
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