Review: The Good Dinosaur (2015)

The Good Dinosaur

Rating

Director

Peter Sohn

Screenplay

Bob Peterson, Peter Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann

Length

93 min.

Starring

Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Jack Bright, Peter Sohn, Anna Paquin, AJ Buckley, Sam Elliott

MPAA Rating

PG for peril, action and thematic elements

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Soundtrack

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Review

At one time, there were only two animation studios that had managed to produce a near-perfect record of great films and only one or two good, but not great ones. With The Good Dinosaur, Pixar leaves Laika as the cheese that stands alone.

Unlike the company’s recent nadir of Cars 2, The Good Dinosaur squanders all of the good will they have built up with audiences. The film unwinds a simple, cliche-riddled plot that unsuccessfully leverages western tropes into an emotionally relevant, but narratively vacant film. When the youngest child of a family of farming dinosaurs is washed down stream while trying to kill a feral human boy, the two bitter enemies must work together to find their way home. Along the way, they are faced with challenges from various potentially villainous dinosaurs and only through sheer grit, determination, and a hell of a lot of luck, they successfully navigate the wilderness towards home while quickly becoming family along the way.

Pixar has long been known for a studio that took risks. Who would have thought that films about talking cars, a rodent chef, an angry octogenarian, or even scary monsters could have appealed not just to the young audiences who had been the bread-and-butter of animation, but do so while bringing adults on for the ride with sly humor, clever comedy, and a passion for rich, deep storytelling. None of that is in evidence in The Good Dinosaur.

Had this been developed by Disney and carried only its name, no one would have raised an eyebrow. While we have come to expect bum films from the Mouse House, The Good Dinosaur would be an average effort for them, certainly not as bad as Home on the Range, but no worse than something like Atlantis. For Pixar, though, the failure undercuts its importance in the computer animation landscape.

While most Pixar films are sometimes surprisingly good and take their premises in new and inventive directions, each turn of the plot in The Good Dinosaur is predictable and most of the payoffs are entirely unrewarding. Pixar still knows how to sell an emotion and this film has a handful of moments where the audience is expected to dab their eyes with tissues, but those moments feel calculated and inorganic, unlike many of their past efforts. That doesn’t mean there aren’t moments that will touch your heart and sadden your soul, but these come almost in spite of their delivery rather than because of it.

The Good Dinosaur should be used as a warning to future Pixar animation teams. They no longer have the benefit of the doubt and, as a result of this film, need to work much harder at winning back audience trust and releasing merely good films will no longer be sufficient.

Review Written

August 24, 2020

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