DIVA’S REVIEW: The Good Dinosaur

Oh, I hope they like me after this one…

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If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t read this review. I literally go over the whole movie. Spoilers galore!

The best way for me to document my feelings for this movie might be to start off with the positives. One thing that Pixar’s newest film has over its predecessors has to be the animation. That’s to be expected, some may say, since the normal evolution of anything is for it to get better with practice. But truthfully, the landscapes were so detailed and rich with color that at time I forgot that this was not a movie filmed in the woods somewhere. Absolutely stunning.

I didn’t know anything about this movie, but, I did surmise that this story line would confirm what I long hoped, and many speculated, was the unspoken nature of Pixar films: They stories are created in a parallel universe. Yes. A storytellers playground.

How? The movie opens in outer space, and we follow the path of an asteroid as it races down towards Earth. With an inherent understanding of how this action historically plays out, you would expect that the asteroid would crash onto the Earth’s surface, right next to a pack of grazing Stegosauruses, perhaps, and BOOM – that’s the end of the dinosaurs as we know it.

Such is not the case in The Good Dinosaur. This asteroid swoops on by, without causing so much as a breeze in the night sky, and the dinosaurs are allowed to evolve into…

Intelligent, human-like creatures that operate on a sophisticated and highly-advanced level to their doppelganger brethren in our universe.

Yes. The cause of this asteroid missing the planet sets the wheels in motion for the interesting evolution in animals and machines alike in this parallel universe. This is my theory, anyways. And with this theory in my head as I entered the movie theater, I was half-expecting John Lasseter to appear, sitting in front of me all stealth-like, and then at the perfect moment, announce to everyone in the theater that I did it. I put that piece together. Well, when that didn’t happen, what I was left with was the film itself.

The film, in all its beautiful, stressful, simplistic, boring glory.

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The actual story line felt familiar. That’s because it has been done before. A few times. And this movie didn’t try to make the circumstances leading up to the start of the great journey feel any newer than what we have experienced before. From the moment you’re introduced to Arlo, the young Apatosaurus, and his family, which consists of a brother, a sister, and two parents, you get the feeling that this big happy family will never make it intact. It’s apparent right off the bat that Arlo’s father will die. And soon. Why?

Because we are introduced to a young dino who is afraid of leaving his farm, of getting out into the world and exploring. We have seen enough movies to know that something big, something dramatic, is going to have to happen to push Arlo out of his comfort zone. And what’s the perfect formula for injecting sadness and an urgency that the main character has to grow? Well, losing a parent. Not only was it painfully obvious that Arlo’s father, Poppa Henry, would die, but the way that he died was straight-up Mufasa!

Now, Arlo is on his own in a big, scary world. And it’s stressful. It’s harsh. The dinosaur literally gets knocked down so many times, it starts to feel oppressive.

As soon as his journey begins, Arlo runs in to a human-kid, Spot (who was the “cause” of Henry’s death), who acts more like a dog or a wolf. Arlo wants to find his way home, and Spot follows him. I was entertained by their relationship in the beginning. The dinosaur was the leader, the intelligble one of the group. The boy was more like an animal. They were a funny pair, and I truly liked how that relationship began. They went through the journey together, but because of all the sadness in this movie, having two lost, orphaned travelers felt too heavy. Spot was adorable. Arlo was not street-smart and needed this wild child. This relationship might be the only reason I stayed through the end of the movie.

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They run into some mean pterodactyls; crazy eyes and a cuddly-creature-death-for-shock-value aside, these characters were actually more annoying than intimidating. Then they find some T-rex herders and help them out for a quick minute. They have a campfire-night sky-storytelling  moment where the Father T-Rex is supposed to drop some gold nuggets of wisdom down for the travelers to collect, although this whole scene bored me and didn’t connect with anything. Anything at all. There wasn’t even a feeling of relief when Arlo assisted the T-Rex family successfully. After they left the T-Rex family, they were optimistic about getting to Arlo’s farm. I didn’t care. The main character was tormented that rejoining him after the “break” felt more like a chore than something to look forward to. I wish there had been more moments of being carefree, or laughing, or SOMETHING!

They almost got home, but those damned pterodactyls find them again. Predictable, yes. We knew at this point in the film that every thing was going to be a fight. This time, they take Spot and leave Arlo behind. Now, injured and alone, Arlo sees the ghost of his father. I was surprised that this scene didn’t have any affect on me. I cry at nearly every thing. But since I knew that this scene was coming, (i.e.; Mufasa visiting with Simba…) I felt overly prepared to see Poppa once more.

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Of course, after the ghostly visit, Arlo digs up some strength, turns his direction away from home and heads to save his friend. He scares them away with an intimidating roar *ehm* and within a matter of seconds, really, the climax of the film is over.

Then Arlo and Spot head home. A human family runs into them and without speaking, offer to take Spot with them and raise him. Arlo has a moment of anger, where he wants Spot to stay with him. This scene did make me sad, but I thought to myself; “What would really be awesome – since there has really been no happiness in this film – is if Arlo takes the humans back to the farm and teaches them how to produce food for themselves.” Yes. A happy ending. Arlo certainly deserved it.

But he didn’t get it. Spot went with the humans… wherever they go, and Arlo went home. His Mom yelled his name out and the movie was over. The end.

Aside from using a dinosaur as the main character, there was nothing memorable about the film. The characters, the journey, the music… nothing! If you want a beautiful slideshow to play in the background as you’re entertaining guests or trying to meditate… put this film on mute and let it go. At least the imagery was worthwhile. But honestly, when lacking everything else, what does that matter?

Suffice to say, I have never been more disappointed in a Pixar movie. I’m really bummed out. Perhaps my expectations were too grand this time, but I have to say, in my opinion, The Good Dinosaur was nothing more than a recycled story painted in pretty colors, perhaps hoping for a distraction from the lack of actual story telling. Will I watch it again. Yes. Why? To see if I am missing something. Maybe I can appreciate the story more now that I understand the direction. And I would be willing to give it a second chance simply because it is a Pixar movie, and I admire/adore/love their films. But I had to be honest, and this is honestly how my initial viewing of the movie went.

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Thoughts? Comments? Cookies?

Leave ’em here! 🙂

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