Last year Pixar released two movies, one of which is one of my favourite films of all time, Inside Out. A review for that will be available soon, but for now, I’d like to focus on The Good Dinosaur, which I feel was one of the most underrated movies of 2015. This adventure is far from perfect, but it is one I greatly enjoyed both in the theatre and later at home (several times, actually).
What would have happened if the asteroid that killed all dinosaurs thousands of years ago had missed Earth? The Good Dinosaur tells the story of Arlo, who after getting lost in the woods will have to find his way home with the help of a human kid. It is a heartfelt story that tackles some typical topics in family oriented films, such as the challenge that overcoming our fears is and the important role family has in our lives.
As in every film from Pixar, one of the most jaw-dropping elements in this movie is the incredible animation. The scenarios are amazing, the level of detail is just stunning throughout the entire run-time. Great texture work, outstanding lighting… Every single bit has been carefully and masterfully crafted, to reach a point of photo-realism we’ve seen very few times. The characters, however, do look very cartoonish, and that clashes with the looks of the rest of the pieces in this beautiful puzzle. The obvious reason would be the fact that Disney is willing to sell as many Arlo toys as possible and the simplistic character models make that task easier, but I do believe there is more to this decision than that.
The plot is beautifully told through visuals, with every scene making sense in the story-line. Some people have argued that certain scenes look out-of-place, but from my point of view, they all form a larger unit, a character arc, an evolution for the protagonist throughout the length of the movie in which we can see him evolve. The relationship created between Arlo and the kid is very sweet and works as an excellent core for the movie.
Nevertheless, the screenplay does lacks depth. Most of the time, the lines Arlo delivers are nothing but an explanation of what the audience can already see happen on the screen, so the majority of those sentences are completely irrelevant and could have been deleted.
In fact, I believe that at some point of this movie’s long development time, which took over two years more than expected (including a change of directors while in production), this was supposed to be a silent film. The fact that the most beautiful scenes work flawlessly without the need of a single word, or the overly cartoonish look of the protagonist to make his emotions and thoughts really visible on-screen are just a couple of hints of that. That’s the reason why the character models and the sometimes silly script seem to be two elements that should not be together, as they both address the same issue: trying to make the movie easily understandable for kids. Of course resources must be used to find a workaround to that potential problem, but the use of two solutions, as evident as these at the same time feels like an overkill. Either a silent film with the looks it has, or that same script with more realistic looking dinosaur models would have turned out to be better versions of The Good Dinosaur, probably.
As (almost) always in this studio’s films, the soundtrack is clearly one of the highlights. Beautiful tunes perfectly blend with each scene and deliver the exact emotions required in the most touching situations of the movie. While it isn’t as memorable as Michael Giaccino’s music for previous Pixar films (it would be nearly impossible to be up to par, honestly), it does work brilliantly, specially during the third act, as the most emotional moment is greatly enhanced.
The Good Dinosaur is not Pixar’s best movie, but it is a very good film experience for the whole family. While it could have been much better, the difficulties its development faced have indeed been solved, as it has turned out to be a pretty solid movie. It contains truly touching moments, features some memorable characters and has a great sense of humour for both children and adults. Some people were disappointed because of the high expectations we always have for Pixar movies, specially the same year the terrific Inside Out was released, but don’t let those opinions stop you from watching it. Without the hype or any comparisons, leaving the film just on its own, it is incredibly beautiful, and the relationship between the characters has enough heart to overcome its weaknesses. 8/10