In a world where dinosaurs never died out, and became the dominant species of Earth, a young Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) struggles to find his place in the world. When he is tasked with taking out the ‘critter’ that is eating his family’s stockpile of food, Arlo finds himself thrown into an unfamiliar world, and makes an unexpected year.
2015 is a banner year for Pixar fans; first we had the exceptionally lovely Inside Out back in July, and now the seemingly forever-delayed friendship film The Good Dinosaur is released in Irish cinemas this week. After a production plagued with problems, and a release date pushed further and further back however, the question becomes; is The Good Dinosaur really any good?!
The voice cast of the film, as usual for a Pixar outing, are on top form. Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand bring Arlo’s parents to life, with Steve Zahn, Anna Paquin and Jack bright joining in. The standout, however, has to be Sam Elliott, who plays ta T-Rex named Buck, who is world-wise and kindly, and just so happens to be a sort of cowboy style dino.
The story, originated by Bob Peterson and written for the screen by Meg LeFauve, follows Arlo as he is swept away from home and has to find his way back to his family. Along the way, he makes friends with an odd feral human named Spot, and faces vicious Pterodactyls and makes unlikely allies in the Tyrannosaurs. All of this feels rather familiar however, and brings to mind the 1963 film The Incredible Journey – and indeed, the 1993 remake Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. As well as this, none of the antagonists are particularly well rounded out of entertaining, other than being thrown into stereotypes; the pterodactyls are scavengers, the tyrannosaurs cowboys, and there is an odd meditative Triceratops who turns up to try and bring some comedy to proceedings. That said, there are some lovely and moving scenes between Arlo and his “pet human” Spot, where they learn more about one another.
Director Peter Sohn previously directed the Pixar short Partly Cloudy, but the same level of emotion and care is not evident in The Good Dinosaur. There are some genuinely moving moments but they are quickly thrown aside in the name of adventure, which actually doesn’t feel all that adventurous at all. The film is paced well enough, and the animation is absolutely breathtaking, showing the great leaps Pixar have made since their beginnings with Toy Story 20 years ago.
In all, the issues that plagued The Good Dinosaur are evident on screen. The animation is lovely and the voice cast do well, but the story feels derivative and familiar. Pixar have set an incredibly high bar for themselves and this time, have failed to meet their own exacting standards.