Everyone knows that Pixar is responsible for some of the best animated films of the last two decades, including such unforgettable films as “Inside Out,” “Up,” “Ratatouille,” Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “and “Toy Story.” However, even a studio that does such amazing work as Pixar has its off days, as we’ve seen with films like “Cars” (and its sequel), “Brave,” and “Monsters University.” These are films that didn’t get quite enough thought put into them, resulting in somewhat forgettable experiences, which is an area that we find ourselves in once again with their latest effort, “The Good Dinosaur.”
The film focuses on a group of dinosaur farmers, which consists of Henry (Voice of Jeffrey Wright), Ida (Voice of Frances McDormand), and their three children, Buck (Voice of Ryan Teeple), Libby (Voice of Maleah Nipay-Padilla), and Arlo (Voice of Raymond Ochoa). Buck and Libby find life on the farm rather easy, having no trouble doing their chores, and thus earning the right to “make their mark.” Arlo, on the other hand, is the runt of the group who has trouble doing his tasks. When his father gives him the job of guarding their silo, Arlo ends up catching a wild caveboy, but finding that he doesn’t have the heart to kill him, he just lets him go.
As a result, Arlo’s disappointed father makes him come along as they track the caveboy, but while they are doing so, they get caught in a terrible storm that results in Henry’s death. Afterward, while trying to work extra hard on the farm, Arlo spots the caveboy once again and chases him until they both accidentally fall into the river. Arlo, who had been knocked unconscious, finds himself trapped, but rescued by the caveboy he had been chasing. Together, this unlikely pair must try to find their way back home while facing a multitude of dangers, with Arlo being forced to confront his fearful nature and finally getting the chance to prove himself.
From the very start of “The Good Dinosaur,” you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve seen this story before, from the young, runt hero trying to find his place in the world, to the death of his father, to him being put into a situation where he is forced to prove how brave he can actually be. It’s one of those tales that’s not particularly bad, but with such familiarity, you can see the exact path that it’s going to take right up to the end, which is not something that’s common in a Pixar film.
Even though these films are usually directed mainly towards kids, the stories that accompany them are usually deep, thoughtful, and filled with gripping development that have kids and adults alike enthralled. In the case of “The Good Dinosaur,” it seems like the writers weren’t looking to go any deeper than the surface level, giving us a story that’s mostly ho-hum, and leaving the usual depth and development behind. Because of this, it’s a fairly standard animated adventure where you may be amused by certain elements, but that feeling of there being something missing remains nagging throughout.
Luckily for the film, there are indeed certain elements that help keep it afloat, such as the same gorgeous animation that we have come to expect from Pixar. Even in their weakest years, Pixar has always delivered animation that can’t be beat, and so even if the story is not keeping you entertained, the beautiful animation will still leave you dazzled throughout. You also get some fairly intriguing characters in Arlo and Spot (as the caveboy comes to be known). They’re the kind of characters that you can’t help but root for, even when you know that everything is going to work out fine in the end. You get a decent supporting cast as well, but the main focus remains exactly where it should be, on this bizarre relationship between the two main characters, where the somewhat overly-familiar theme is allowed to shine.
Despite “The Good Dinosaur” representing one of Pixar’s weaker efforts, it doesn’t make it a particularly bad film, just one that’s rather forgettable thanks to its familiar plot and themes. Even they seemed to know that it wasn’t quite up to their usual standards, what with it not receiving the usual amount of marketing for a Pixar release. That, and the fact that it was dumped out not long after their best film to date, “Inside Out.” Ultimately, what we’re left with is a film that has certain things to like about it, but simply not enough to overcome the weaknesses in the story.
“The Good Dinosaur” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The film presents a perfectly sharp image that does a great job of showing off the bright colors and detailed characters of the gorgeous Pixar animation. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally fantastic, presenting all of the dialogue, music, and sound effects in excellent quality. Overall, the film has been given exceptional treatment that couldn’t possibly be better.
Sanjay’s Super Team (7 Minutes): An excellent and beautifully-made Pixar short.
True Lies About Dinosaurs (2 Minutes): A very brief and uninformative featurette about dinosaurs.
Recyclosaurus (6 Minutes): A pointless featurette about building dinosaurs from random items.
The Filmmakers’ Journey (8 Minutes): An interesting look behind the scenes at the making of the film.
Every Part of the Dinosaur (6 Minutes): A behind the scenes look at creating the characters.
Following the T-Rex Trail (7 Minutes): A look at the ranching family that inspired the T-Rex ranchers in the film.
Deleted Scenes (11 Minutes): Three deleted scenes from earlier versions of the film, with introductions from director Peter Sohn.
Commentary with Director Peter Sohn and Crew: A decent commentary track that takes you through the development of the film.
Dino Bites (4 Minutes): Another pointless inclusion that’s just bits of footage featuring characters from the film.
Hide and Seek (1 Minute): A brief short featuring Arlo and Spot.
While “The Good Dinosaur” does have things to admire about it, including beautiful animation and some intriguing characters, it’s ultimately one of Pixar’s weaker efforts thanks to an overly-familiar story and themes, which turn it into a mostly forgettable adventure. Luckily, even when Pixar has an off day, the result is still better than most animated films out there, and even though it’s still not quite recommendable, it remains a harmless family film that wouldn’t be considered a waste of time either.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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