For no reason other than bragging, I’d just like to point out that, thanks to a timely package arrival, I’m typing this wearing my new Boba Fett Varsity Jacket. I’ve never felt like such a badass before. I’m in love with it. I will never take it off. Anyway, back to the review. I think I missed most of the deal about The Good Dinosaur. I mean I saw enough references around the internet but not enough to actually watch it. Until I had nothing better to do and a review to plan for. To be fair, I couldn’t see many problems with it. We all know I love a good animated film and I bloody love dinosaurs. Why wouldn’t I like this one? I really want a future employee to ask me the “which dinosaur would you be” in an interview one day. I genuinely think that I’d have the best answer to that question ever. I’d tell you what it is but I wouldn’t want to give you a helping hand if we’re ever competing for the same position one day. Although, after watching this movie I may have to change it anyway. Who wouldn’t want to be a gruff, T-Rex rancher?
The Good Dinosaur asks the question “what would life have been like if the dinosaurs hadn’t died out?” It makes for a pretty amazing opening sequence and sets up an interesting premise. What if dinosaurs and man had existed at the same time? In Pixar’s world, dinosaurs have evolved over millions of years to be able to build simple structures, farm the land and raise livestock. Obviously they can talk but what animals can’t in the Pixar universe?
So, we are first introduced to the new dino way of life thanks to a pair of Apatosauruses who run their farm with surprising efficiency considering they don’t have hands. Of course, their small family is quickly expanded as the couple welcome three children to their brood. The two eldest are boisterous and helpful for the family business whilst the third, Arlo, is small and scared of everything. Arlo is encouraged by his father to ignore his fear and help destroy the critter that is threatening to eat them out of house and home. Unfortunately, the chase leads to a sequence of events that leaves Arlo alone and a long way from home.
Thankfully, he is not alone and is helped on his journey back by the dreaded critter, Spot, who turns out to be the orphaned child of a couple of cavemen. Whilst dinosaurs have taken on human traits, Spot perfectly fits into the role of loyal dog. He brings Arlo food, protects him and wants nothing more than to love his new companion. Arlo quickly warms to Spot and their friendship blossoms whilst they encounter new creatures and dangerous situations.
The Good Dinosaur is no way near being the most inspired Pixar plot of all time. It had a few script problems and a last minute change, which can be seen in the final product. I know we’re talking about a kids film so I don’t want to bring logic into it so deeply. However, there can be no doubt that the whole concept raises a few questions that it never answers. Plus, the actual journey is very simplistic and is almost literally just Arlo’s walk back to his home. There are a few sub-plots along the way but any breaks in the path are few and far between.
However, of those few there are a couple of stand out moments. The brief break Arlo and Spot get helping a family of Tyrannosaurs track down their herd of buffalo from a group of raptor rustlers. The characters are a fantastic addition and give a clearer view of the world that Pixar has created. With the patriarch expertly voiced by Sam Elliott, it is a great dinosaur parody of Western films and deserves a spin-off of its own.
The tale isn’t really as creative as a lot of their most loved work but it still remains a Pixar film in spirit. The visuals are as fucking beautiful as anyone would expect and the realistic backdrop becomes a character in its own right. It’s so wonderfully realised that it makes sense that the main characters are a little bit more childish and cartooony. It works. It’s stunning. It’s Pixar.
As well as breathtaking visual images, Pixar is becoming known for devastating their audience with an overload of emotions. I was left a blubbering mess at the end of Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur was no different. The reason behind its simplistic plot is to allow the filmmakers to focus on the central relationship that is so important to both characters. The friendship that develops between Arlo and Spot is beautiful and realistic. This is the true heart of the film and you can’t help but get drawn into the pair’s blossoming connection.
The journey itself may be uninspiring but there can be no denying that the consequences for both main characters are utterly fulfilling. The emotional ending is a fucking emotional rollercoaster and it is totally earned. It’s nowhere near being Pixar’s most creative film but Spot and Arlo are one of the studios best double acts.