I’ve always looked at Pixar as one of those studios that constantly churns out top shelf material; always brimming with creativity, imagination and a powerful sense of heart that other animation companies wished they had. Aside from the “Cars” films, no Pixar film has ever truly disappointed me; even their less successful films (A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille) are better than some people’s best. With last year being noticeable Pixar free, they doubled up this year with the phenomenally brilliant “Inside Out”, and now we look at “The Good Dinosaur.” We begin with a classic writing tool: what if…in this case, what if the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs DIDN’T hit the Earth and humanity ended up mingling with the dinosaurs? Arlo (Raynond Ochoa), a young Apatosaurus is separated from his family during a vicious storm. He comes across a young, primitive human child (Jack Bright) and together, they try to make their way through dinosaurs, the weather and dealing with their own worst fears to make it back home.
The initial trailers and ads failed to make this movie a “must see” in my eyes, but I figured: it’s Pixar, it’s GOT to be good because even if it doesn’t look like much in the beginning (Up, Finding Nemo), it always ends up being brilliant…right? Strangely enough, I caught myself asking if this movie really was made by Pixar, because to be honest, it sure doesn’t seem like it was. The interesting initial question of seeing how dinos and humans might mix is scarcely utilized to its fullest potential. In fact, the film seems content just using the bare minimum of possibilities by boiling everything down to a dinosaur tweaked re-telling of the old Disney film “Homeward bound.” It definitely LOOKS like Pixar. The scenery, the storm visuals and the absolutely breathtaking animations of water will leave you absolutely stunned.
But at this film’s heart, its message and story are all too generic and basic for a company that just put out the likes of “Inside Out” a few months earlier. Arlo’s journey with Spot (his pet human) scrounges up a few laughs and more than a couple moving scenes, but they feel like soft balled, cutesy aimed jokes that are being lobbed at us instead of being professionally presented. This is a bare bones kids film, playing it safe and looking pretty damn cute while doing it, but definitely holding back a great deal of the power Pixar usually puts out on a regular basis. I think the biggest reason my heart strings were vaguely being tugged is because these characters lack Pixar’s perfect charm. No one sticks with you, no one is particularly funny or especially memorable; it’s like eating a sandwich made out of only two pieces of bread and thinking about how much better this would taste if it had something more appetizing in the middle.
Arlo and Spot are definitely a cute pair and I do enjoy their budding friendship, the scene with them picturizing the deaths of their respective family members was one of the sweetest and saddest things I’ve seen in years. But these two are not enough to keep you intensely invested, this film needed more of everything, and instead it just got less and less of everything as it went along. Other characters that COULD have been interesting, had they been developed more and appeared longer than 5 minute increments, but the movie is clear that Arlo and Spot are the only worthwhile characters we need to be watching; a statement I strongly disagree with. I thought that having two Pixar movies in one year was like getting 2 Christmases in one year. But it’s painfully clear that the levels of ingenuity put into “Inside Out” drained Pixar so much, that whatever little energy or ideas they had left, were anemically scrapped together and called “The Good Dinosaur.”
This movie is a visual sign of fatigue and comes across as slightly above average at best. Overall, “The Good Dinosaur” is an average movie with a lot of gorgeous visuals and cute characters, but the heart that beats beneath its sparkly image beats just a tad bit slower than it did with Pixar’s past projects. The jokes are mildly entertaining, the journey is predictable and the potential is disappointingly wasted on mediocre characters. Watching a Pixar movie is supposed to be an unforgettable experience, but aside from the visuals and a few key tear jerky scenes, “The Good Dinosaur” will probably go extinct in your memory within a week and that’s a truly sad statement for me to say, but it’s true.