CineMarterThe Good Dinosaur - The Dinosaurs Need to Stay Extinct, Pixar
Directed by Peter Sohn. Produced by Denise Ream. Written by Enrico Casarosa and Bob Peterson. Release date: November 25, 2015.
The Good Dinosaur might be a bit of a stretch. The Okay Dinosaur, or The Mediocre Dinosaur may be more accurate titles. While it's true that little is actually wrong with The Good Dinosaur, it's also true that, outside of some breathtakingly beautiful backdrops - which cause their own problems - there's nothing right with it, either. It exists in the place that occupies the spaces between the good and the bad. Audiences emerge from this void apathetic to what they just saw, not sure what an appropriate reaction is. Perhaps no reaction is the best one in this case.
The film is set in an alternate timeline in which the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs actually missed our planet, and, as a result, dinosaurs were allowed to continue to freely roam. As we begin, we find a family of Apatosauruses, who have become human-like farmers. The runt of the family, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), fails at every task given to him, and is the type of character who is scared of his own shadow. So, when disaster strikes, it only makes sense that Arlo finds himself hundreds of miles - or just a few, because scope is hard - away from his home, unable to return until growing up and conquering his fears.
Along the way, Arlo teams up with a dog-like human whom eventually receives the name "Spot" (Jack Bright). And then ... they just kind of go from place to place, doing a thing or two that's not very interesting, all while progressing slowly toward Arlo's home. They encounter ... only a couple of other types of dinosaurs, come to think of it. They face ... not much danger, really. And they learn ... almost nothing until the very end, at which point the movie informs us that family is, indeed, important - but only if that family is genetically related to you, because how dare you form a surrogate family with anyone else? Homogeneity for all!
There's almost nothing to The Good Dinosaur, which likely speaks to the production problems that the film faced. A hack-job like this had to be created to salvage the time and money spent, and, because of this, plays it safe at every turn and only has the barest bones of narrative, characters, and themes. Alternatively, perhaps we're expecting too much. This is a Pixar movie - the second of 2015, after Inside Out, which was amazing - and, therefore, our expectations are automatically higher than with films from other studios. So, when The Good Dinosaur arrives and is functional but mediocre, it feels far more like a failure than if it came from, say, Blue Sky Studios (Rio, The Peanuts Movie, etc.), where it would come across as more of a success.