Tuesday 15 December 2015

Film Review: The Good Dinosaur

Animation deities Pixar return for a second time in 2015 with The Good Dinosaur, a sweet tale of Arlo, a timid dino who forms a close personal friendship with a young human orphan, Spot. 

Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Up - that's a helluva legacy to live up to. Year after year, Pixar continue to bring fresh, imaginative ideas to the table and upstage the rest of the animation heavyweights. As recently as this June they dealt us the heavy emotional right-hook that was Inside Out, a surprisingly mature and insightful examination of human emotion and brain development.

And now, for the first time in their history, they've dropped two films in the same year; the second, Peter Sohn's The Good Dinosaur, doesn't quite match Inside Out for creativity, but it's by no means a poor effort from Pixar.

The film revolves around Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a kind-hearted Apatosaurus who, following the death of his father (Jeffrey Wright), finds himself separated from the rest of his family. Lost in the wilderness without the know-how to help him survive, Arlo soon stumbles across Spot (Jack Bright), a grubby early human who behaves like a dog would nowadays. Together, Arlo and Spot embark on a journey across the forest to rejoin with his family - but, several obstacles stand in their way.

Firstly, let's talk about the positives - particularly the animation. The animation in The Good Dinosaur simply has to be seen to be believed - there are times where the incredible details looks so real and so tangible that you forget you're watching a cartoon. Although, at this point, the word 'cartoon' really doesn't do it justice because it's so much more than that. The film has a very unique feel too; the dinosaurs themselves don't have the same earthy look than the backdrop making for a very striking contrast - for better or for worse.

However, there are a few elements that hold The Good Dinosaur back from attaining true greatness. Firstly, the narrative feels very episodic; Arlo and Spot journey from one encounter to the next, from a forrest-dwelling mystic (voiced by Peter Sohn) to a troop of tough as nails T-Rex's who herd cattle and swap adventure tales over the camp fire. They don't all feed into the overall narrative though, with the T-Rex's in particular swimming out of the narrative just as quickly and easily as they swam in. The three-act structure does feel a little muddled as a result.

The voice acting is also a bit of a mixed bag; distinctive voices like Steve Zahn and Sam Elliott bring their characters to life, but no-one is going to be able to impersonate or even remember what Arlo sounds like after the film ends. It's simply not that memorable in the same way that Tom Hanks is with Woody or Amy Poehler was with Joy.

The Verdict: 6/10

Gorgeous animation can't disguise a conventional story that simply doesn't pack the same punch as some of Pixar's more memorable efforts. This might not be enough to satisfy adults, but kids will lap it up just like have done with Toy Story, Cars and Inside Out before it.

The Good Dinosaur opens in cinemas across Australia on Boxing Day.


  1. Great review. I'm with you on this, visually stunning, but plot kind of lacking. I still prefer this to Inside Out though.

    1. Cheers Brittani! That's really interesting about Inside Out though - I didn't think anyone didn't like that film!

  2. Yeah, I think it's fair to say this one was lacking, but as you know, I still had a very good time with it.

    I honestly feel that were at the point in animation where the line between cartoon and reality may not even exist anymore. Like, if real actors had been in this setting, no one would have even noticed it was all fake.

    1. That's pretty scary to think about tbh. And sad, because I'm sure there will come a day where that kind of stuff does actually happen.



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