The Good Dinosaur
2015 Pixar movie
Rating: 14/20 (Abbey: 14/20; Buster: 20/20)
Plot: A young dinosaur having trouble finding his role in his Apatosaurus family finds himself separated from them and has to find his way back home with the help of a human child. Oh, I forgot to mention that. Humans and dinosaurs coexist in the imagination of the Pixar people.
It's odd that the Pixar people couldn't take an interesting premise like this and come up with something so derivative. It's not that this is a bad movie at all because it's really not. The issue is that the characters, their traits, the plot points, and all the twists seem to have been lifted from a bunch of other movies. There's heart, as you'd expect from a Pixar flick, but it almost feels like a transplanted baboon heart instead of an original human one. Other than the twist on the lost-person-with-a-helpful-pet motif with the pet being a human, nothing about this really surprises. You get an episodic road-trip buddy movie without a road, and it works, but it works a little generically.
When I am in supermarkets, I see movies for sale. Recently, I've been seeing Inside-Out, and I always think to myself, "That movie's too good to be sold here." It's the same with a lot of other Pixar movies. It doesn't make any sense because all the big new releases are going to be sold at the grocery store, but the thought's in my head anyway. The Good Dinosaur, along with Brave and Cars, are movies that don't seem out of place in supermarkets.
I will say this though. The animation absolutely blew me away. I'm talking specifically about the scenery stuff. Foliage, water, stormy skies, animal bristles, grasses, glowing things, mountain peaks. The imagery is stunning, and I could have sworn that it wasn't animated at all during certain scenes. Arlo looks rubbery in comparison, so much that at times, this looks kind of like Pete's animated pal against the real backdrops in Pete's Dragon. There's a clash there, and I don't necessarily mean this as a criticism because I actually liked the contrast. Brave also had gorgeous backgrounds, but this film tops it. Of course, the Brave characters did blend in a little better than the characters do here. Anyway, I don't think too many people are going to watch this movie and not find it extraordinarily beautiful.
And although it is derivative, it doesn't mean it doesn't have some stand-out moments. Sam Elliott voices the exact kind of animated character that you figure he would. The kid's cute enough. Director Peter Sohn voices an absurdly weird character that brought the closest thing I had to a laugh while watching this movie. The bird antagonists are kind of cool. But the gap between the storytelling and characters and the terrific animation is really wide. And that clash is much more distracting to me than the clash between the animated characters and realistic backgrounds.
Another supermarket-appropriate movie from Pixar worries me. I think part of this movie's problem might be that it was released the same year as the completely brilliant Inside-Out. That's kind of like The Beatles opening up for Lyle Lovett or something. It would have been silly to expect an endless supply of magic from Pixar. Four out of five of their last movies have been average at best though, and that's troublesome from a studio that seemed to have the Midas touch for so many years.
Still, that animation! Can settings be more realistic than they are in this movie? Man, did it look good!