Like dinosaurs, there are creatures that don’t pass the test of time. They fade into obscurity, usually forgotten with the small passing of time. The Good Dinosaur will likely go the way of the dodo.
The gorgeous environmental visuals, from the texture of the bark on the trees to fluidity of the raging river, are all accentuated by the use of 3D. One of the few examples of 3D used not as a gimmick, but seamlessly incorporated to add depth to the already impressively rendered animation. As the film starts, you are in complete awe of the natural landscapes and how realistic they appear. Unfortunately, that is all short lived as soon as you are introduced to the family of dinosaurs that threaten to undermine the graphically sophisticated world they’ve created.
Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) and his family stand out, not just because they are talking dinosaurs. Their design comes off as rudimentary when put in front of the complexly designed world. The overly cartoony appearance of that family of dinosaurs comes off as counter productive to the visuals as a whole. The odd thing is that not every dinosaur had this same appearance. The trio of T-Rexs were the perfect mixture of anatomical and animated. It also didn’t hurt that they were voiced by Anna Paquin and the legendary Sam Elliot.
Screenwriter Meg LeFauve is coming off of a career high with soon-to-be Oscar contender Inside Out. In the Good Dinosaur, she attempts to reach the same emotional depth as her earlier film while mixing in spiritual elements like The Lion King. The watered down story loses traction in its vague familiarity to the dozens of other similarly plotted films. The emotions feel shallow and the spiritual elements come off as hollow. The short Sanjay’s Super Team that came on before the film achieved all of that and more in the span of several minutes.
Director Peter Sohn does the best that he can with this film, even taking part as one of the funniest characters in it. Unlike Ratatouille, there is little original or even charming in this film. The tone of the film is extremely scattered, ranging from innocuously innocent to verbally visceral. Somewhere between the threats of extreme violence, evisceration, and bloodbaths, there is a children’s film trying to exist. Typically, the western elements alone would make you think twice about whether it is appropriate for children, but adding carnivorous beasts to the mix should be enough to deter you.
Young children tend to emulate the characters they feel they have the most in common with, and in this case, it is more likely to be the human that acts like a pet than the dinosaur. I’m sure parents will be thrilled. Even the impressive visuals aren’t enough to save The Good Dinosaur from the inevitable extinction or bargain bin that awaits it. The gorgeous graphics will only be momentarily enjoyed by the adults up to the moment their children complain of boredom. Then you’ll realize that even the title of the film was a lie.
RATING: ★★★★★ (5/10 stars)