DIRECTOR: Peter Sohngood_dinosaur_ver9

CAST: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, Steve Zahn, Mandy Freund, Steven Clay Hunter, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Maleah Padilla, Peter Sohn, Dave Boat, Carrie Paff, Calum Mackenzie, John Ratzenberger

RUNNING TIME: 100 mins

CERTIFICATE: PG

BASICALLY…: In an alternate timeline where dinosaurs never became extinct, a young Apatosuaurus named Arlo (Ochoa) becomes embroiled on an epic quest with a young cave-boy named Spot (Bright) for company…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

For the first time in its twenty-year history, Pixar are releasing two films within the same year. Inside Out was, and continues to be, a roaring success with many – us included – seeing it as a spectacular return to form for the studio after a few missteps, as well as being a genuinely fantastic film in its own right.

So, whatever they’re brave enough to follow it with has to be just as good, right? Not necessarily, but The Good Dinosaur is still a fairly solid family film that’s definitely not perfect but is still miles ahead of the studio’s weaker outings (*cough*Cars 2*cough*).

As you may have seen from the trailers, this particular film takes place in a world where the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago never even touched the surface. Today (in this alternate timeline), they are still the dominant species whilst humans are thought of as mere “critters” that have adapted animal-like instincts. The film is about Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the youngest son of an Apatosaurus family of farmers – who carry out their agricultural duties in some fun and creative ways – who can’t seem to pluck up the courage to do the things that the rest of his family can do. After some dramatic developments – let’s just say it’s very much a DISNEY film – Arlo becomes lost in the wilderness and must overcome his fears to get back home. But he won’t do it alone – for company is a young human boy named Spot (Jack Bright), who like most boy-and-his-dog stories Arlo doesn’t care much for at first but of course warms more to him as their journey continues.

What some people will probably be disappointed by, especially after the complexities of Inside Out, is how simple the story is here. Pixar is known for taking great care and thought with their stories, but this is definitely one of the more kid-friendly projects they’ve turned out in a while; that’s not to say that it’s a bad thing, because we honestly don’t mind that it’s taking a much simpler route this time, one that children will have no problem following, but some will almost certainly be taken aback by their decision to go with a slightly older storyline than they’re used to with its endless originality. While there are certainly scenes that feel like slight variations on ones we’ve seen before in other films, they’re still done with a genuine warmth and passion that not many other animation studios can match up with.

It is also, by far, one of Pixar’s most visually-pleasing movies in its history, with the absolutely gorgeous animation often being mistaken for actual Midwest scenery rather than just computer graphics. It shows how far the studio has come in developing its own software over the past two decades, having now gotten to a point where they can create photo-real backdrops and cinematography that can look like footage shot for a live-action nature documentary, which you can buy for closely resembling reality even with the slightly-cartoony designs of the dinosaurs. Everything from the rain to the grass is rendered with such love and affection, which makes it more real than it actually is; it will undoubtedly be considered a visual milestone for Pixar aficionados.

Though it’s definitely not among Pixar’s strongest narratives, it is still a story that is told fairly well by people who absolutely know what they’re doing. Director Peter Sohn – who replaced original director Bob Peterson late in production – makes the smart decision for there to not be a real villain in the film; though there are definitely antagonistic figures along the way, including a pack of Pterodactyls led by Steve Zahn’s Thunderclap, they are more just products of their environment than actual threats. Nature itself, on the other hand, is the closest the film comes to being a true foe, what with its causing of certain events – again, it’s a DISNEY movie – and looking absolutely unstoppable thanks to the nightmarish animation used to design its particular attributes. All at once, it is a film that sticks to certain conventions but also one that takes a few new risks as well.

The most affective part of the entire film, however, is the core relationship between Arlo and Spot, and more specifically the animation that is used on them in certain scenes. As individual characters, they’re decent enough; nothing truly complex, but likable and charming enough to follow at the same time. They work well as a little team, and there is a nice little chemistry between them that makes us want to see they get through to the end alright. But in those scenes, it’s a whole other kind of magic; particular exchanges are conveyed through silence and letting the animation tell us everything we need to know without having it spelled out for us in dialogue. That is especially true for the ending, which is so beautifully directed and animated without a single word that it’s worth the price of admission alone.

So, does The Good Dinosaur measure up to Inside Out? Not entirely, but it has enough heart, passion and visual splendour to make it a worthwhile trip to the cinema for families this forthcoming Christmas season.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Good Dinosaur doesn’t quite measure up to the success of Inside Out, due to a simple but accessible storyline, but it has a sweet and likable nature to its simplicity that’s complimented with some absolutely fantastic photo-real animation and an affective twist on the boy-and-dog narrative that will absolutely win families over.

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