November 29, 2015
At first, I was not entirely convinced by the first trailer of this animated film since it seemed too cutesy and juvenile. However, when I found out it was a Pixar film, then it automatically became a must-see film. The Pixar signature promises a storyline which would appeal to both kids and adults, as well as spectacularly innovative animation techniques.
"The Good Dinosaur" assumed that the giant space rock which was supposed to have wiped out the dinosaurs missed the earth completely. This enabled an imaginary world where dinosaurs of all kinds to continued to co-exist along with more modern creatures like birds, mammals and yes, humans. The dinosaurs had agriculture and spoke English, while humans walked on all fours and howled like dogs.
The title character is Arlo, a young Apatosaurus born as a runt. Awkward and cowardly, he was hard-pressed to put his "mark" on the family wall. One day, while chasing a pesky grain thief (a human caveboy), Arlo fell into the big river and got swept off faraway downstream. Arlo and his human pet (whom he called Spot) had the adventure of their lives trying to get back home.
The first act of the film had a definite "Lion King" vibe. Although, he was a farmer and not a king, the character of the Arlo's father (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) possessed the same majesty and dignity (and fate) as King Mufasa. The father and son scene with the green fireflies was magically executed. As voiced by child actor Raymond Ochoa, Arlo himself can be a bit too cute for comfort. However, as a young dinosaur faced with the awesome dangers of Mother Nature herself, his naivety and helplessness are understandable.
Along the way, Arlo and Spot (who was unbelievably agile and fearless for a human boy) encountered a mixed bag of other dinosaur characters in Act 2, Some were bizarre, like the Styracosaurus with the various creatures nesting on his horns. Some were dangerous like the sly and vicious Pterodactyls led by Thunderclap (voiced by Steve Zahn) and the Velociraptor cattle rustlers. The additional dimension in the rendering of the characters made them even scarier. The quick jump-scare editing made the events shocking for very young children. I thought these were some of the most savagely violent scenes I have seen in a supposedly "kiddy" film.
Arlo also meet some giant Tyrannosauruses but ironically, they turn out to be the most delightful characters in the film. Grizzled macho square-jawed cowboy Butch (looks like Jack Palance and voiced by Sam Elliott) and his two children Nash and Ramsey (voiced by Anna Paquin) became unexpected allies. Throw all reason to the wind and just enjoy their fun and spirited interactions with Arlo and with each other.
Adults may judge the storyline of self-discovery, family and friendship to be too familiar and predictable. But admit it, Disney-Pixar really knows how to milk sentimental emotions about those topics. Those realistic teardrops from the characters' eyes can really get your eyes to well up also. However, as a visual spectacle, this Pixar film definitely does not disappoint. The background scenery of mountains, forests, rivers, waterfalls, and prairies was all very very realistic. It was as if the animated characters were superimposed on real life film footage of magnificent yet dangerous Mother Nature -- truly amazing and powerful to appreciate on the big screen. 8/10.