Directed by Peter Sohn. Starring the voices of Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Jack Bright, Raymond Ochoa, Steve Zahn, Peter Sohn.
THE PLOT: What if, 65 million years ago, that meteor shower missed our little blue planet, and the dinosaurs just kept on evolving? And what if, a few million years later, these dinos had evolved enough to farm small patches of land in Marlboro country, using their noses to plough the fields, and building stone-walled pits to store their corn?
Well, wonder no more, my fat friends, for that’s where we quickly find ourselves here, with Poppa (voiced by Wright) and Momma (McDormand) the proud parents of three cute little stereotype kids. The shy and awkward one, Arlo (Ochoa), soon finds himself on a long, soul-searching journey home after he gets swept away by the river – and this not long after he witnessed his father drown. Befriending the little human critter (Bright) who sparked the chase that led to his father’s death, Arlo learns all sorts of life lessons as he slowly makes his way home across land…
THE VERDICT: Are you ready to be heartbroken? Well, not quite heartbroken. If it had been made by any other studio, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ would be a fine, funny, inoffensive animated family film, the result of some desperate marketing executive deciding that ‘The Lion King’ would be better told with hillbilly dinosaurs. But, this is Pixar, animation’s Beatles, and having just got back on the horse with Pete Doctor’s incredible ‘Inside Out’, it seems almost perverse that a film as traditional and derivative as ‘The Good Dinosaur’ would come next, from the studio behind ‘Toy Story’, ‘Finding Nemo’, ‘The Incredibles’ and so many other modern animated classics.
Mind you, this is the studio that also gave us ‘Cars 2’. And ‘Cars’. And ‘Monsters University’. And the almost-great-but-not-quite Brave. But, hey, every Beatles is allowed a Magical Mystery Tour, or two. Just don’t give us sequels to such so-so offerings.
Mind you, it’s highly unlikely we’ll witness another round of ‘The Good Dinosaur’, a film that looks fine but never quite fantastic, and has jsut about enough decent gags (every Irish mother is pretty much a Dreamcrusher) to keep you chucking for half an hour. Just about.
The fact that the photorealistic reproductions of Wyoming and Montana are populated here by distinctly rubbery, unphotorealistic dinosaurs is an odd artistic choice too. These dinos look like they’re only halfway through the rendering process.
So, yeah, this is Bonanza with Brontasauruses, a mildly bizarre John Ford’s ‘Jurassic Park’ mash-up, and it will most likely keep the young’uns happy. But, for animation fans, this will be more Don Bluth than Pixar. Maybe Mater just dreamt the whole thing…?
Review by Paul Byrne

The Good Dinosaur
Review by Paul Byrne
  • filmbuff2011

    The undisputed masters of modern cinema animation, the Emeryville, California-based Pixar are starting to become a bit like later-years Woody Allen. For every great film they deliver like last summer’s wonderful Inside Out, they also deliver what can be kindly described as decent but unremarkable fare like their new film The Good Dinosaur. It’s set in a tantalising ‘what if…’ scenario. What if that meteorite had just missed Earth millions of years ago, thereby allowing dinosaurs and humans to co-exist together? (most pre-historic films just smash them together time-wise). This is where we meet Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), an apatosaurus who is the runt of the litter and hasn’t quite found his place in the world yet. His stern but caring Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) tells him that he will make his mark some day and add to the family’s honour. First he has to catch and kill a critter who is stealing their food. But that critter is actually a little boy, Spot (Jack Bright). Spot is more like a dog in a way, as he crawls on all fours and is jittery but not afraid of what’s bigger than him. During a moment of mercy, Arlo lets Spot go and tries to chase him. They both plunge into a river and are swept away to faraway lands. Arlo must find his way home, through scenic landscapes that aren’t always friendly terrain. He’ll have to negotiate a flock of nasty pterodactyls, but not everyone is nasty. Surprisingly friendly (Texan) T-Rex Butch (Sam Elliott) and his brood show him some southern hospitality. To really get home though, he and Spot will have to rely on each other. A cautious and initially unlikely friendship develops, as we discover that Spot just wants to belong as well… Production issues surrounding The Good Dinosaur have been well-documented. In brief, there were creative differences, fired directors, re-writes, re-casting and low morale in Pixar due to the firing of 67 employees. It’s a miracle then that The Good Dinosaur isn’t actually a bad film. It’s a good one – but therein lies the problem. We expect so much of Pixar that when that gold-plated exterior reveals some silver underneath, we become underwhelmed. Maybe they’re victims of their own success. Setting aside all the production issues, there’s still much to enjoy here. The trademark gorgeous animation is there, with the 3D adding an extra dimension to the scenic, photo-real landscapes. Pixar’s films can often be set in clearly defined and confined environments – a child’s bedroom, a house, a spaceship. But The Good Dinosaur is a film that revels in the open world of the natural environment (a story change brought the environment to the fore as an adversary). You almost want to reach out and touch the leaves or dip your hand in the water sometimes – it looks so real. The basic story of having a family, a place in the world, finding your way home, is familiar but replacement director Peter Sohn gives it that extra twist. The most touching and impressive scene is a wordless scene involving Arlo and Spot using twigs and circles drawn on the ground to illustrate what their hearts feel. For all the good stuff though, there is stuff that doesn’t pass muster. The scenes with the Texan (!) t-rex family feel clumsy and too identifiable with the modern world. Pixar are supposed to be experts in building new, exciting worlds that stand out – like in Inside Out. Maybe in America those scenes feel homely, but for international audiences they grate on the nerves. There’s also a lack of vigour in the story, perhaps a result of some six writers mixing things up. There’s more imagination in the dazzling pre-feature short, Sanjay’s Super Team. The Good Dinosaur is on a par with Brave and Monsters University – reasonably good, but not quite magic. ***

  • Louise Corrigan

    Most bizarre setting… What if dinosaurs were in the Wild Wet?
    Just in general, a bizarre setting that had some very boring plots ripped right from under the nose of The Lion King and The Land Before Time with some added American Tail – Fievel Goes West.
    This is not The Good Dinosaur – this is The Mediocre, if not WTF, Dinosaur