Tall Tale to Tell
Jessica Simpson is beautiful right? Or at least she was – last thing I saw her in was Dukes of Hazard – but I struggle to remember a time where she said anything worth paying attention to. Actually; I tell a lie, she once said she didn’t know how to use a dishwasher which I still find mind-blowing/hilarious to this day.
The Good Dinosaur is like Jessica Simpson.
It looks absolutely incredible, better than any other animation I have seen. From the first moment the river flows majestically past the dinosaurs I had to stop and question whether this was actual real filmed locations with dinosaurs animated over the top. It wasn’t long after I scraped my jaw off of the sticky, popcorn coated floor that I found it slamming into the ground again only this time it was because of a branch with water droplets on it.
It’s hard not to gawp.
Normally, being taken out of the film’s narrative is a bad thing but The Good Dinosaur gets away with it. This is primarily because the film is slow paced, holding shots of scenery primarily for you to stare at in awe.
The story follows the notion that the dinosaur-ending meteor missed earth. After repeatedly being inept at the farming duties requested of him by to his father Henry (Jeffrey Wright) and his morther Ida (Frances McDormand); Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the smallest of three Apatosaurus siblings, is given a special task of catching the ‘critter’ who keeps stealing the corn stored for winter. It turns out the critter is a scruffy human child named Spot.
Having also failed to smash Spot’s feral little face in with a spiky club (no really – that’s accurate!) Henry drags Arlo along to finish the job. In a scene that is not too dissimilar to Mufasa’s death in the Lion King; Henry is crushed by a stampeding flow of water through a ravine. Arlo somehow survives and has to find his way home. To his surprise Spot is there to help.
The film tries to show the value of friendship, forgiveness and open mindedness but that’s not worth paying close attention to. Instead, what I took from it is that nature is both beautiful and terrifying because much of the film doesn’t make sense.
Let’s take the geography as an example. Arlo and family live in a valley and are simple farming dinosaurs, which actually compliments the film very well. The slow pace nature of their life affords you the time to admire the surroundings notice all those little touches that makes the animation superb whether that’s the rows of corn planted farmland or the glaciers surrounding their idyllic locale.
Arlo’s journey home takes him through the wild west like he’s wandered into the wrong set. Where did the mountains go? I mean if you can lose a mountain range you must either be blind, a teleporter or the Post Office at Christmas time.
Some of the wildlife doesn’t make sense either. At one point Arlo meets a Styracosaurus who is either mentally disabled or stoned and provides no character or plot advancement in any way, shape or form.
The animation of the dog-like Spot, who is probably the best character, and in fact all the dinosaurs are friendly and cartoony yet parts of this film are quite dark such as when Arlo’s father dies and indeed the next 30 minutes of Arlo injuring himself as he tries to find his way home. We even had one or two kids ushered out of the cinema, crying as they went, because of this.
Director Bob Peterson was replaced by Peter Sohn about a year ago and promptly re-imagined large parts of the film. Perhaps this explains why some of the film feels serene, thoughtful and slow paced (much like it must have been like to be an apatosaurus) and some of it feels like a man in a suit said: “I want action scenes, stoners, hallucinations and giant waterfalls – also see if you can get a pee or a poop joke in there somewhere!”.
Neither of these approaches are fully realised but I know which one I prefer. I think if they went all in to make this just a visual masterpiece even at the detriment of strong characterisation and plot development it would have made the better film. Instead they try to wedge it’s large frame into the Pixar mould leaving us with The Good Dinosaur rather than The Amazing Dinosaur.
- Looks phenomenal
- For the slow paced sections
- Pulled in two different directions – literally
- Maybe not suitable for the very young
- The more child friendly parts