Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Film: The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Stars: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Sam Elliott
Director: Peter Sohn
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

I am still flummoxed by the marketing behind The Good Dinosaur, one of those films that you knew existed on-paper but was so underwhelming in terms of its buzz that I literally texted my brother the day before the film started saying "I'm still not 100% convinced this movie actually exists."  Seriously-can you remember the last time a film from a major animation studio (Disney/Pixar no less!) was so completely undersold in terms of happy meals, commercials, toys at your local Target-it's incredible, and probably why many think this may become Pixar's first commercial "flop."  However, the film does exist, and I did see it, and despite an almost translucent campaign, it still seems to be a player in the Oscar campaign.  The more important question, though, is it any good?  That one we'll tackle right now...

(Spoilers Ahead) The film itself feels frequently like it was made by Disney during the 1980's, long before the studio got hip to princesses and musicals in the 1990's and then found its second creative wind in the 2000's with Pixar.  In fact, in some ways it mirrors that of Amblin in the 1980's, and not just because we are once again visited by talking dinosaurs.  Here we have Arlo (Ochoa, so we have an actual child actor doing the voice of the dinosaur), an apatosaurus who is born much smaller than his brother and sister and struggles to find his way in a world where the dinosaurs weren't killed off by a meteor and instead live in what appears to be a pre-industrialized world where cavemen are alongside the dinosaurs, of whom Arlo and his family (who harvest corn for the winters because why not?) are some of them.

The film is beautiful, it's worth noting before I start bagging on it too hard.  Pixar has always been great at creating beautiful scenes, but there's something weirdly wonderful about this film, perhaps because we see the dinosaurs in such sparing numbers.  We are not greeted by dozens of creatures, but more of Arlo's journey with Spot (the human counterpart he finds along the way) are about the dangers of his surroundings, and we see wild plains and roaring mountains and a celebration of the western frontier in a way I haven't seen onscreen for a while.  This is really quite lovely, and something to celebrate-even when Pixar is taking a swing-and-a-miss, they're still the most attractive game in town (at least domestically).

But that doesn't excuse what is a pretty tepid story, and one that doesn't have the grandiose nature that we've seen in movies like Up or WALL-E nor the insane fun of something like Finding Nemo.  I feel like this is a silly thing to say about a children's movie, but this is a movie that adults won't enjoy at all-it's too juvenile, and that wouldn't be so bad but paint-by-numbers creations are something that Pixar should be above achieving.  A film for children can still be smart or interesting, and neither the script nor the cast manage to hit anything other than fine (even Sam Elliot, voicing the most memorable moment in the script as an aged T-Rex, can't find a way to be anything other than "oh, right, that's Sam Elliot").  Overall, then, this is a boring film and one that won't be reached for by either your children nor the parents trying to push a repeat viewing.

Those are my thoughts on this tiny little moment in Pixar's history, arguably the film that is most likely to be forgotten since A Bug's Life.  What are your thoughts on this movie-do you think that it will grow in fans (it does have a popular subject topic, after all), or are we to be spared the The Better Dinosaurs in a way we weren't the Cars franchise?  Share your thoughts on the film and its chances in Best Animated Feature below!

No comments: