Monday, December 7, 2015

Movie Review #350: "The Good Dinosaur" (2015)

Movie"The Good Dinosaur"
Director: Peter Sohn
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Image Source
A young, timid dinosaur named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) falls into the river and is washed very far down stream. Scared of everything, he must conquer his fears and make his way back home with help of an unexpected friend. 

Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur" is a western-style frontier adventure, except with dinosaurs instead of people, and people instead of dogs. We weren't quite sure what to expect before seeing this movie since it has gotten pretty battered at the box offices, already on track to be Pixar's lowest grossing film since "A Bug's Life."  This is a good movie, but far from Pixar's best. The story is simple: a young, cowardly dinosaur named Arlo, primarily voiced by Raymond Ochoa, is lost out in the wilderness once he falls off a cliff and into a river. He has to brave nature, predators, and weather changes to make it back to his family's farm. Along the way, he befriends a wild human, which is the equivalent of a wolf in this alternate universe. Arlo's relationship with his human, who he named Spot, appeals to us as dog lovers and of course, reminds us of our furriest little family member. Through their adventure, Arlo and Spot meets many other dinosaurs, some who are friendly and others who are not. They also meet a wide array of critters, from little mouses to little birds and lots of creatures in between. Though there are some humorous moments throughout the film, "The Good Dinosaur" doesn't specifically go for comedy as films from Pixar's movie arsenal have in the past. This is more of a coming-of-age adventure/overcoming your fears exploration than the lighthearted or heartfelt comedies we typically get from Disney Pixar. The story is decent enough and the film is short enough to keep most kids entertained, though we think its more mature themes and a lack of lighthearted humor may not appeal that highly to kids of all ages. The best part about this animate feature by far are its landscapes and settings. Talk about beautiful! There are many times throughout the film, which is just shy of 100 minutes, where we had to question if the backgrounds were actually animated or real life footage juxtaposed between CGI dinosaurs. They are just that realistic. Between babbling brooks, wind-stroked willows, snow-capped mountaintops, and breezing leaves and tree branches, this is Pixar's most gorgeous film to date. In sharp contrast to these photo realistic backgrounds are extremely cartoonish characters. Most of the dinosaurs are meant to be long evolved past what they would have looked like 65 million years ago, which is the main explanation for their exaggerated cartoonish features beyond simple artistic license. Some of the T-Rex dinosaurs reminded us of Rex from "Toy Story," just bigger and a little more scarred. This contrast didn't deter us from enjoying the movie, but we did notice it enough to mention it.

The bottom line is, "The Good Dinosaur" does not deserve the bashing it has been getting by some critics. There are way worse animated films out there, and Disney Pixar obviously took the time to craft this film since it came out looking beautiful. Sure, it's not the best Pixar movie, and no, it's not going to beat "Inside Out" for any 2015 awards, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It still has the emotion we have come to know from Disney Pixar, the gorgeous CGI animation that somehow seems to keep getting better and better over time, and a really solid message to tie it all together. Adults will probably enjoy this movie more than kids will, but who knows, we're not kids and haven't been for quite some time. Maybe we underestimate them. Where the company went wrong with this film was putting out two movies in one year. Pixar needs to focus its efforts into one film per year, so one doesn't clearly and glaringly overpower the other.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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