Review: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is a Visually Stunning Adventure

By November 23, 2015

After a small number of years where the studio seemed stuck in a limbo of sequels and prequels, summer of 2015 marked a return-to-form for Pixar with the release of their emotionally resonant film, Inside Out. After taking a year off last year as well, the studio is coming back with not one, but two films this year, but following the critical darling that Inside Out ended up being, the studio’s follow up film, The Good Dinosaur,has some mighty high expectations to live up to.

The film has a much simpler presence than its most immediate predecessor and takes place in an alternate universe where the asteroids that turned the dinosaurs on Earth extinct, simply missed the planet, leaving the species not only alive, but also able to move forward and evolve. Not only does this provide the film with a viable world filled to the brim with different species of dinosaurs, but also is able to imagine the different kind of families and lives that the species might go on to create.

Taking place in a region similar to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, The Good Dinosaur follows a family of dinosaurs led by Momma (Frances McDormand) and Poppa (Jeffrey Wright), who help to create a farm life for themselves and their three children, Buck (Ryan Teeple/Marcus Scribner), Libby (Maleah Nipay-Padilla), and Arlo (Raymond Ochoa). The latter of which is the ugly duckling of the family, smaller than his siblings, and much more afraid.

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After that, the movie’s formula and family dynamics is fairly formulaic compared to other films by Disney and Pixar, as Arlo sits back and watches his siblings grow and make their marks on the world, while every time he takes a step forward, it seems like he takes a dozen back. However, Poppa is determined to make sure that Arlo does not fall behind in this world, and while he sometimes pushes his son too far, Wright manages to bring a warmth and soul to Poppa that always makes you understand his every action.

When tragedy befalls the family though, the four dinosaurs are left to their own devices, struggling to gather enough food before Winter. Through a series of unfortunate events too, Arlo is separated from his family when he chases Spot, a young human boy he’s seen around the farm before, and accidentally gets washed away from his home by the river.

It’s when Arlo is separated from his family that The Good Dinosaur truly begins to take off too, and while it might not ever gain as much steam as some of its studio’s previous outings, it still makes for an enjoyable, and visually stunning ride which features Pixar’s most gorgeous animation to date. As Spot and Arlo’s relationship continues to grow too, the film not only gains more and more heart and emotion, but becomes better as a whole as well, with the emotional beats reaching their high points during two specific scenes, both of which involving circles drawn in the sand.

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First time director Peter Sohn handles the film with steady hands, and considering the rocky and highly-publicized production troubles the project has faced over the past few years, he’s managed to give the film a calm and calculated tone that will suck both adults and younger viewers in within the first few minutes. Despite some writing contrivances and an overall familiar story too, The Good Dinosaur is able to accomplish what it sets out too with ease.

Other notable characters pop up and make appearances throughout Spot and Arlo’s adventure too, including a terrifying group of Pterodactyls that feed off of creatures left stranded by the region’s chaotic storms, and a family of cattle ranching T-Rexes voiced by Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, and A.J. Buckley, whose familial bond helps to remind Arlo what he’s fighting for in the first place.

The score by Jeff Danna and Michael Danna helps to elevate the film’s quality throughout too, making some moments stand out from the rest whenever it really kicks in. The film isn’t quite as ambitious or prolific as Inside Out, but it finishes off a solid one-two punch from the studio this year, and reminds audiences all over that when Pixar is at bat, they’re more likely to hit a home run than any other studio working today. Animation or otherwise.

The Good Dinosaur will hit theatres everywhere on November 25th.

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Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable