Its right there in the title. The Good Dinosaur is good. Not at the standard of most Pixar films, but still pretty good.
The Good Dinosaur is a animated adventure created by Pixar studios and directed by Peter Sohn. It stars Jack Mcgraw as Arlo, a young cowardly Apatosaurus who must survive in a world where the Dinosaurs were never wiped out by a meteor. After getting lost in the forests of prehistoric America, Arlo befriends a young feral human called Spot (kind of voiced by Jack Bright but really only with grunts) and tries to find his way back home. The broad strokes of the story are pretty standard Pixar and Disney fare which overall makes the plot predictable. There are certainly creative ideas in the world building and imagining how Dinosaurs would adapt with a few thousand more years, but the storytelling itself isn’t particularly incredible. It lacks the nuance of other Pixar films and has some really unsubtle character motivation and lines. The first act overall is very messy. Some moments feel rushed where others go on for too long. Well written, it could have been a quarter of the length, and even more effective at establishing the characters and world.
The animation, for the most part, is stunning (in typical Pixar fashion). The world is so photo-realistic it legitimately looks real in some shots. The animation of the water alone is enough to make David Attenborough swoon. Unfortunately, as the animation of the world is so good, the characters are pretty poor in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, they’re animated with a lot of movement and expressions, but their designs make them look like they were dragged out of a Saturday Morning cartoon rather than a Pixar film. It just looks far too cartoonish, which puts it in direct conflict with the design of the world. I was constantly being dragged out of the experience by a Daffy Duck Dinosaur wandering around an incredibly detailed backdrop. It clashes, and simply does not work.
What does work, however, is the main duo. The relationship between Arlo and Spot is very organic and happens in a natural way. Its done so well, that the audience becomes connected with Spot in a similar fashion, who is simply adorable. His design allows him to be savage while still cute and even with a few growls and howls he shows so much emotion and character. Arlo is solid as well. Mcgraw does a fine job of distinguishing his character, although he did get irritating on occasions and the arch he goes through is completely unoriginal. Overall he’s a fine protagonist, but nothing spectacular.
Some of the supporting cast of dinos are well designed as well. Most of them seem to simply be there for comic relief but the odd creature Arlo meets on his journey has a creative idea as a part of their character. Think cultish pterosaurs or cattle-rustling T-rex. Those ideas are some of the more enjoyable aspects of the film and give it a more creative flair that it was lacking in the plot.
Unfortunately The Good Dinosaur is certainly a disappointment after the spectacular Inside Out, but it still lives up to its namesake. Instead of following in the footsteps of Pixar’s greats like Finding Nemo and Up, The Good Dinosaur will always be known in the lower category along the likes of Monster’s University and Cars. Sure, it definitely has problems, but there’s enough here for kids and adults to waste away an hour and a half on.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Meh