The Good Dinosaur Review: The Bland Movie

Chad White
Loves: Pixar and I don’t care who knows gosh darn it
Likes: A good looking movie
Dislikes: A good looking movie with no substance
Hates: Lucy from The Peanuts

You have to get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side.

Beautiful but boring. Pretty but empty. Gorgeous but gone. These are the phrases I would use to describe Pixar’s latest effort, The Good Dinosaur. Taken the movie’s tumultuously complicated path to creation, it’s no wonder Pixar had trouble with putting together this striking albeit familiar tale. Everything about this movie is textbook Pixar, both in good and bad ways. On one hand, you have a world previously unseen, landscapes that capture the majesty of a vast, dinosaur filled Earth and some of the best water visuals ever. But then the good parts are overshadowed by the vanilla story, two dimensional characters and various moments of boring sprinkled throughout.

The movie follows Arlo, a young dinosaur trying to live up to his parents’ expectations. They love him and his siblings equally but Arlo has yet to be the dino he wants to be. Then Arlo’s dad dies and Arlo must grow up. But, when he is suddenly separated from his home, he must trek across an unknown world with his newfound human friend, the dog-like Spot. Given the synopsis, you can kind of guess the ending already. However, it’s not about the beginning and the end – it’s about the journey in between. And that journey is slow but methodical. Arlo learns what it means to face his fears, something his dad wanted him to do before he passed. The cast is somewhat lackluster compared to other Pixar movies. The young Raymond Ochoa voices the scaredy-cat Arlo and does a good performance. The cast also includes Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Elliot, Anna Paquin, and Steve Zahn as the de facto semi-antagonist.

Visually the movie is stunning with shots of big, beautiful landscapes. Forests are lush with defining green hues that can probably only be captured in CGI form. And the previously mentioned water effects are so good. When the rivers are calm, the sun shines perfectly off of them giving a shimmering effect akin to…well, water. But a rushing deadly river is murky and devilishly evil. The stars capture an unpolluted and bright night while the fireflies contrast with their sharp greens and fluttering effects. In short, The Good Dinosaur looks amazing.

Writer Meg LeFauve and director Peter Sohn have separate track records that rival some of the best in the industry. LeFauve wrote Pixar’s other 2015 film Inside Out while Sohn is known for his previous Pixar work from Finding Nemo to The Incredibles to Partly Cloudy. However, it seems the long production time of The Good Dinosaur proved to be the real culprit. Nothing really comes together from the story or characters. Instances in the movie seem to just play out. That’s it. Nothing comes from anything. The story pace is interesting though. It’s admittedly slower than anything else the company has put out. And it kind of plays in the movie’s favor. While we don’t get to explore characters fully (Sam Cook’s wonderful Butch the T-Rex is an example), we get a lot of bonding between Arlo and Spot. While this movie is better than say Planes or Cars 2, it’s kind of disappointing to see Pixar falter with their first wholly original idea.

Should you watch The Good Dinosaur?

This is tough. The movie looks good and it has pacing unseen in other Pixar efforts but it’s very unimportant when compared to said efforts. Each one of Pixar’s movies stands out whether it be Cars’ visuals or Ratatouille’s heart. But The Good Dinosaur feels cobbled together. It’s as if Dreamworks worked really hard to make a Pixar movie and used Blue Sky’s casting in order to do so. So, in the end, watch it once but you probably won’t want to touch it again.