The Good Dinosaur (2015) (PG)
This review contains SPOILERS!
There's always a moment when you're watching a Pixar movie when you realize that they've struck gold. At least, that's been the case with their track-record so far. I can't think of another company that we expect masterpieces from with every subsequent release. But, to be fair, Pixar has only done this to themselves. The lore surrounding the movies, and then all the fan theories included, make us regard the company's films with something like awe. And then we get "The Good Dinosaur".
Let's be perfectly honest, it's hard to screw up a movie with dinosaurs in it. Even "Jurassic World" which wasn't loved by critics, made enormous sums at the box office, unlike "The Good Dinosaur" which was hit by a meteorite.
Interesting enough, the premise of the movie is most interesting in its first twenty seconds. What if the meteor that had destroyed the dinosaurs had missed Earth? A couple of millions of years later, when man begins to evolve, the two would come in contact for the first time. Except, this time, dinosaurs are the heavily evolved creatures and man is a brutish beast that walks on all fours and probably don't wipe after he poops.
At least, this is what Bob Peterson and company who are behind the "conceptual idea" of "The Good Dinosaur" would have you believe. Now, it's hard to just erase a couple of decades of dino-stereotypes that we're used to seeing in films. Even in movies like "Dinosaur", we are reminded of a few things: the dinosaur world is always far removed from the human one. Now, with this movie, that image is flipped. Everything human we have come to expect from a run of the mill western movie belongs to the dinosaurs.
In the first scene present, we witness the birth of reptilian agriculture, which is kind of preposterous, but fine, let's ignore that for a minute. Not only do these herbivores plow a field, water it, grow corn, store it in a silo, and raise chickens, they also have a house for some apparent reason and probably indoor plumbing. All of the voice actors in the immediate family of our hero Arlo, are directed to be Southern and genteel, yet aggressive like every coming-of-age story we've ever seen.
Arlo is the smallest of his family. He's scared of pretty much everything but he needs to "make his mark" within the family...which, in this case, isn't metaphorical, he literally needs to put a muddy footprint on the side of the silo in order to gain credibility with his fam.
But not everything is so simple and soon, thanks to multiple "deus ex machina" moments, Arlo is separated from his kind with a lot of emotional baggage tied to him. And so he begins a journey back home...sound familiar? Yeah, it's pretty much "Homeward Bound".
Anyways, along the way he bumps into a human that he names Spot, because in this evolutionary reimagination of the history of the world, humans must have more relatives with dogs than with apes. Spot's name should be the first clue of his canine ancestry, but he also scratches, pants, begs, fetches, and howls at the moon.
Placing dinosaurs in this western world presents a few more imaginative moments, where you can seen the creative genius of Pixar lurking behind the concept. One of these moments places a T-Rex as a cattle herder and wannabe velociraptors as rustlers. But for the rest of the "journey home" it feels nothing but a long beaten down trope. We know what's going to happen as soon as the story reaches its climax and when it does, it's not emotionally satisfying enough to make us cry or laugh. This is like flat soda, sure it's sugary but without carbonation you realize you're just drinking toxic waste that will eventually kill you.
Okay, so it's definitely not that bad.
But it is very bizarre, and very, very incoherent. Side moments are pointless and add onto the movie's running time for no reason and only prolong the inevitable.
My advice: just pirate the T-Rex scenes online and then skip the rest.
Posted by Micah Jones