(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a georgic, which I may have confused with a pastoral, but both have to do with agriculture or country life. It may have only a thin connection to the film reviewed, but this is what came to mind.)
It’s easy to forget the joy
Of life dependent on my touch,
Of plants that never would have grown,
Sprouts that might have bent to stone,
Animals safe in their zone,
Pride in lifetimes all my own,
Though they don’t know it much.
So many want adventurous
And thrilling lives at large,
For every sight to be unseen,
Nothing staid or too serene,
Changed before it feels routine,
Nothing but a glowing screen
To be within my charge.
Adventure, danger have their place,
But when the thrill is gone,
They too will wish for their homestead,
Fruitful loam and flower bed,
Trust in what yet lies ahead,
Smaller lives now comforted
By one to rely upon.
MPAA rating: PG
The Good Dinosaur is quite the mixed bag for Pixar. If DreamWorks or Blue Sky had made it, I might rank it among their best work, but for Pixar, it’s a weak entry in a filmography full of instant classics. There’s nothing especially wrong with this story of a timid young Apatosaurus named Arlo who is separated from his mountain farm and forced to survive and eventually bond with a human “pet” he names Spot, but like Brave, it’s Pixar at its most unoriginal. The plot borrows heavily from the likes of The Land Before Time, The Lion King, and Ice Age, and yet it still has moments of wonder, pathos, and heartwarmth (that’s a word now) that are staples of Pixar’s brand of storytelling.
I suppose my biggest beef with the film is the creative choices of its animators. On the one hand, the scenery clearly modeled off Wyoming’s Grand Tetons and Yellowstone is absolutely stunning, perhaps some of the most gorgeous animated landscapes ever; and on the other, the dinosaurs themselves are as cartoonish and unrealistic as possible. Nothing’s wrong with the animation quality, and a closer look at the dinos reveals more detail than is seen at first glance; but their general design looks like Play-Doh next to the realism of the backgrounds. It looked suspect in the trailers, and as good as Pixar’s animation is, I feel it was just a bad creative decision, making me miss the realism of Disney’s Dinosaur.
On top of that, The Good Dinosaur really is a missed opportunity. The stated premise is that the meteor never wiped out the dinosaurs, so millions of years later, it’s dinos that have risen to the point of an agrarian/herding society. I suppose their presence is meant to explain why humans never got past the caveman stage, but is that really the best that the creative minds at Pixar could come up with? Based on the description, I was imagining a modern-day world with humans and dinosaurs living side by side in some kind of fusion civilization, but there’s nothing here that couldn’t have feasibly happened millions of years ago. I feel like the “millions of years later” aspect was included just so that Pixar could put a dinosaur and a human together without drawing the ire of evolutionist date critics. A movie can suspend the disbelief of a dinosaur family farming, so isn’t the human-dinosaur pairing within the realm of credibility for a cartoon? For the world to be like this millions of years later is kind of a letdown.
Wow, two whole paragraphs of gripes might make you think I hated this movie, but I did enjoy it. The overall story may be simple and unoriginal, but Arlo’s journey to gain courage fosters a familiar kind of inspiration. The comedy is hit-and-miss, but there are a few dramatic moments that resoundingly hit home, whether it be the beyond-words stick-figure bonding between Arlo and Spot or the ghostly dream Arlo has at a crucial juncture. I also loved some magical scenes with fireflies and Sam Elliott’s role as a T. Rex cowboy, even if the dynamics of this dino-world remain underdeveloped. By the end, The Good Dinosaur may be disappointing by Pixar’s standards, but by anyone else’s, it’s a decent animated coming-of-age story that, like Arlo, proves stronger than its failings.
Best line: (Poppa) “Sometimes you got to get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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