Disney•Pixar insists that you call this movie “The Good Dinosaur.” However, my snark tells me that a more appropriate title would have been The Pedestrian Dinosaur.
The newest offering from the beloved animation studio that gave us the “Toy Story” series, and most recently “Inside Out,” features a figuratively yellow and literally green dinosaur named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), and his pet human, Spot (Jack Bright). The pair, separated from their families, go on an all too familiar adventure to find their way home.
The film, helmed by rookie director Peter Sohn and penned by sophomore Meg LeFauve, feels like a lesser Pixar attemept, on the level of “Brave” or the “Cars” films. The uneven tone and poor pacing, coupled with the less than taut script, give the film a mediocre quality, especially considering the greatness we’ve come to expect from Disney•Pixar.
It isn’t a mortal sin to be predictable and not every film needs to revolutionize the industry. That being said, “The Good Dinosaur” can’t escape from out of the shadows cast by its better, more innovative older siblings, like “The Lion King.” From “Dumbo” in particular, the film borrows a lot, including the themes of family, belonging, finding one’s self, a smaller, braver sidekick aiding a young pariah of an animal and a strong mother-son bond. The film even has its own pink elephants-esque sequence in which Arlo and Spot eat fermented peaches. It is hilariously out of place, albeit exceedingly brief.
I don’t mean to say that the film is offensively bad; it simply isn’t particularly remarkable. It attacks its subject matter from a juvenile perspective, without offering many laughs or interesting details for anyone older than 13. The voice performances aren’t especially strong, and the characters aren’t memorably cute. Arlo and Spot are no competition for the likes of Mike and Sully from “Monster’s Inc.”
The film seems to exist as a glorified tech demo. One that Disney•Pixar didn’t feel like tinkering with anymore, but decided to wedge a story into and bill as a feature- length movie for very little children. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and majestic, and special attention seems to have been given to the water effects, which are inarguably the best ever seen in an animated film. The photorealistic landscapes are in stark contrast with the oddly cartoony and largely undetailed characters, further strengthening my idea that the movie itself was merely an afterthought. If you took Arlo and Spot out of the film, nearly any frame could be hung in the MoMA without much backlash or argument.
Feel free to watch the flick on ABC Family in a couple of months, if you really like Pixar films. If you’re just looking for a cute, short, animated story, try to find a theater that’s still playing “The Peanuts Movie” instead.