The Good Dinosaur (2015)

The Good Dinosaur (2015)
  • Time: 100 min
  • Genre: Animation | Adventure | Comedy
  • Director: Peter Sohn
  • Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, Bill Hader, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Maleah Nipay-Padilla


“The Good Dinosaur” asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? In this epic journey into the world of dinosaurs, an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of.

3 reviews

  • Quickie Review:

    In an alternate world where Earth is not catastrophically hit by an asteroid, dinosaurs have evolved and are thriving. Arlo, a young Apatosaurus is accidentally separated from his family. He must overcome his fears with the help of his unlikely human friend Spot, and survive the journey to find his family. The Good Dinosaur, is a great family friendly animation that lives up to the Pixar reputation of innocent humour and emotional beats that tug at your heart. On a technical side, this is a marvellous looking animation, perhaps their most advanced movie yet. On the story front however, the creativity is lacking. Nevertheless the movie is executed well, sure to be an entertaining time with friends and family.

    Full Review:

    Pixar, as I’ve said in the past is arguably one of the best studios in the business, and will always attract an audience no matter what they release. So loved are their films that perhaps we get too upset at even the small flaws of the movie. Now, by no means is The Good Dinosaur one of Pixar’s best, but it certainly has the charm we’ve come to know from their previous work.

    The interesting twist here is that the dinosaurs and humans have switched the roles of animals and “civilised” beings. We see dinosaurs that farm or herd livestock or equivalent to a crazy cat lady a dinosaur that obsessively collects pets. There are plenty of colourful characters, and the ways in which human behaviour is blended into each of them is quite clever. The focus and true gem of the movie is the growing relationship between Arlo and Spot. Of the two only Arlo has dialogue but it’s in the quiet moments that the movie is most impactful. Both share a tragedy in their lives and they are depending on each other. So when we see the lengths they will go to for each other, it is genuine and heartfelt that does not need to be put into words. As for the animation itself, it is absolutely gorgeous. The landscapes are so photo-realistic that you might wonder at times if you are watching an animation or actual footage. The animals are more cartoon-ish but it is a contrast that actually works, and perhaps helps soften the negatives I’m about to explain.

    All Pixar animations try to cater to audiences of all ages. Humour wise I think this movie strikes that balance well. However, I must give a small warning to parents with very young children about the violence. Now it is not graphic, it’s still given a cartoon treatment, but as a full grown adult even I must admit there were some scenes that caught me by surprise that it’s in a kid’s movie. This may be a concern for some parents so  that’s why I bring it up, otherwise don’t worry about it. On the other hand the lack of creativity in the plot is something that everyone will notice. Compared to Inside Out the bare-bones story here has been seen time and time again. So don’t expect to be blown away by something new.

    All in all, The Good Dinosaur is well… a good movie. Sure the story is unoriginal, but it is one that resonates with the audience because of the relationship of Arlo and Spot. With the holiday season coming up, this a great option for the family to enjoy together. And prepare yourself to get emotional over a cartoon dino.

    P.S. If you are of Indian descent like me, with Hindu parents. You will love the short shown before the movie. It instantly transported me back to my childhood Saturday mornings.

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  • (Rating: ☆☆☆ out of 4)

    This film is recommended.

    In brief: A mammoth undertaking that entertains even if it is woolly at times.

    GRADE: B

    The new animated film from Pixar, The Good Dinosaur, bases its existence on a what if theory: What if that deadly asteroid missed the earth millions of years ago and dinosaurs went on to rule the world? Granted, it is an interesting enough premise that stirred the imaginations of its filmmakers. But perhaps a better what if question would have been: What if we would have taken more time to rewrite the screenplay? The film does suffer from some script issues and plot contrivances, but the animation still impresses and the film has its share of poignant moments that are emotionally attuned for adults and children alike. Solidly directed by Peter Sohn (who took over for Bob Peterson), the film is always entertaining and engaging.

    We follow the adventures of Arlo, the runt of the litter who fears everything in his world. To him, and many of the young audience members, this world (and film) is a real scary place. Forced to fend for himself due to the inexplicable forces of nature, our hero learns to survive the deadly food chain with the help of a wild child that he befriends and names Spot. Their friendship becomes the crux and guiding force of the film.

    This boy / dog theme is a major plot device that works very well, as does the idea of the importance of family in one’s life, even if the script by Meg Lefauve makes some bad choices by adding some scenes that do little to advance the plot (a hallucination-induced bout of poisonous berries, a western-themed sequence involving rustlers, a dream episode involving father and son). These detours seem like filler and veer away from the central storyline and its impact.

    The main character, Arlo, is also in need of some revision, as it is renders. It comes across as too cute in a clumsy Gumby sort of way. In fact, most of the characters lacked refinement and are too simple and cartoony. (An exception to this complaint is the pterodactyls that are slight exaggerated to maximum effect and filled with glorious menace and the facial reactions and movements of Spot the Boy Wonder.)

    But Arlo and the other creatures lack the necessary details to be memorable characters, especially when viewed against the photo-realistic backdrops that are truly astounding. The vista and panoramic scenery are the film’s most stunning accomplishment. The lighting and textures are remarkable in their state-of-the-art visual expertise (more so than their character counterparts). The layered backgrounds continually capture the beauty of nature that is awe-inspiring. (The firefly sequence is memorable for its lyrical splendor.) These surrounding landscapes are handled with pure artistry even if they completely upstage the characters and story.

    That said, The Good Dinosaur, has much to recommend. The reviews have been overly unkind to this film and undeservedly so. While it may not be one of Pixar’s best, it certainly was a noble effort that is worthwhile viewing for the epic vibe alone. Go see it.

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  • “In a world where dinosaurs never became extinct…” would be an appropriate opening phrase for the trailer promoting the Pixar-animated, Disney-distributed adventure comedy “The Good Dinosaur” (PG, 1:40). Most scientists believe that 65 million years ago (give or take a million years or so) a meteor struck the earth, changing its climate so dramatically that dinosaurs became extinct. (For more on that, check out Charlton Heston’s opening narration to 1998’s “Armageddon”… or Wikipedia.) If that meteor, whose collision with earth seems so random, had somehow randomly missed the earth, dinosaurs would’ve likely maintained their dominance over our planet. It also stands to reason that they would have continued to evolve. Just maybe the herbivores would’ve become farmers and the carnivores, ranchers. Other species would have evolved too, and mankind could’ve appeared on the scene, but probably wouldn’t have dominated the huge reptiles. That’s the world in which this film immerses us.

    Meet the Apatosaurus family. They’re large, green and have long tails and very long necks, which they use to push their snouts through the dirt to make furrows where they scatter corn seeds. Poppa Henry (Jeffrey Wright) and Momma Ida (Frances McDormand) work hard, and they’re about to get some help. The couple is happily awaiting the hatching of their three eggs. Within moments of each other emerge Buck (Ryan Teeple / Marcus Scribner), Libby (Maleah Padilla) and the under-sized, overly-anxious Arlo (Jack McGraw / Raymond Ochoa). As the three young dinosaurs grow, Buck and Libby become useful members of this farm family, each rewarded for their labors with an opportunity to place a muddy footprint on one of the rocks that make up the family’s corn silo. Arlo, on the other hand, tries hard, but is either too scared or to too clumsy to accomplish much and longs for his chance to “make his mark”.

    Poppa does what he can to help little Arlo, but he knows that, eventually, Arlo’s going to have to accomplish something on his own. Poppa gives Arlo the job of trapping and killing “the critter” which has been stealing corn out of the silo. The creature that springs the trap turns out to be a feral young caveboy who grunts and moves around on all fours. To Arlo, this is just an animal who steals the family’s corn reserves, but he still can’t bring himself to kill the critter. When Poppa finds out that the critter got away, he and Arlo give chase, but a sudden storm keeps father and son from catching the little guy. Arlo comes to blame the critter for everything that’s wrong in his life. The next time the kid shows up, Arlo angrily chases after him, only to fall into the river, hit his head on a rock, get swept downstream and awake to find himself alone, scared and far from home – with no recognizable landmarks in sight.

    The rest of the movie involves Arlo’s attempts to find his way home – before he is done in by the forces of nature or the predators that surround him. “The critter”, which Arlo names “Spot”, joins Arlo on his journey and the two end up friends, helpers and protectors for each other. On this journey, the pair encounter a Styracosaurus oracle / animal whisperer named Forrest Woodbush (Peter Sohn), a group of viciously predatory pterodactyls, led by Thunderclap (Steve Zahn), a family of Tyrannosaurus ranchers headed by Butch (Sam Elliott), and a gang of cattle rustling Velociraptors which includes a dinosaur named Earl (John Ratzenberger). Between the wild animals and the similarly violent and unpredictable storms on this alternate version of earth, Arlo and Spot making it back to Arlo’s farm is far from certain.

    “The Good Dinosaur” has much to recommend it to families and fans of animated movies, but lacks the inspiration that makes the difference between good and great family fare. (Revealingly, the film involved a mid-production change of directors and several postponements of its release date.) The story is original and fun to watch, but doesn’t really have much to say. At times, you may even wonder what this is you’re watching and why, but a couple magical scenes involving fireflies and the movie’s spectacular computer animation (especially the scenes involving water) help hold the attention of kids and adults alike. The script is strong but not what I’d call special, and contains a mildly amusing, but rather odd scene of Arlo and Spot eating berries that make them hallucinate. The voice work is solid, even with an unusually large proportion of little-known actors in the oft-changed cast. This movie is entertaining enough to be worth a look, but has problems that make the adjective in the title more descriptive than the filmmakers probably intended. This Pixar/Disney release isn’t great, but it is pretty good. “B”

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