Inside Out is one of the two movies released in the US in 2015 that I have given 5 stars (so far). It's currently my favourite film of the year, followed by Ridley Scott's sci-fi survival story, The Martian. I'm a big Pixar fanboy and have discussed their work on almost too many occasions. When a new Pixar film comes along, no matter how good it actually looks, I instantly have high expectations. I even had high expectations for Cars 2. I hate Cars 2. With The Good Dinosaur, I was immensely excited, despite the troubled production and mixed early reactions from overseas viewers who have already seen it. Like practically all 2015 releases, The Good Dinosaur was a slight let down. That being said, I still loved it.
It's a film with a simple premise. What would've happened if the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs didn't hit Earth? This isn't so much the story of the film, but more so a catalyst for this tale of a dinosaur and his boy. Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is an Apatosaurus trying to help his family store food for the winter. Soon, a terrible storm arrives, plunging Arlo into a river that separates him from his family and leaves him stranded in unfamiliar territory. When trying to make his way home, Arlo meets a young human boy named Spot (Jack Bright), who he befriends and is aided by on his journey back to his family before winter arrives.
Pixar have a knack for storytelling. No studio manages to tell stories quite like them. Their films speak to a wide audience, appealing to and touching the hearts of both adults and kids, and frequently making the adults cry much harder than the kids. Ever since the release of Toy Story twenty years ago, Pixar have been constantly changing the world of animation and the ways we tell these tales. They seriously are the greatest working film studio today. Every new film, no matter if it's a sequel or something we haven't seen before, gives them an opportunity to touch audiences all over the world, and The Good Dinosaur is no exception.
It's a sweet and awe inspiring movie that made me emotionally invested in the life of a dinosaur. Pixar have created a dinosaur that I'm able to relate to. Goddamn, they're good. The film is a tale of friendship, family and the power of courage. It's a touching movie that packs an emotional punch, especially in two spoiler-filled scenes that I won't discuss. While Inside Out stole all my tears this year, it's still quite the emotional roller coaster, and these two scenes are emotional without too many words even being spoken.
It's these more visual based scenes that really work best. The advertising for The Good Dinosaur hardly showed any of the dinosaurs talking, relying mostly on the imagery and the music to sell you on the film, and it worked. It worked well. The trailer linked below is absolutely beautiful and almost put a tear to my eye when I first watched it. My favourite moments in The Good Dinosaur are the scenes that manage to show us something without having Arlo explain what's going on. Much like Wall-e, the less dialogue, the better. Too bad this is aimed more at kids than it is adults and so the characters are constantly explaining the plot.
The animation in this film is on a whole other level, especially compared to Pixar's last effort, Inside Out. The backgrounds and the environments look photorealistic at times, and it's truly beautiful. The character designs, however, are more cartoonish, and for some odd reason a lot of people have a problem with this. I don't see why. When it comes to animations, I don't want it to replicate reality. I don't want all animations to be 100% photorealistic. While the environments in this film are stunning, I'm glad they decided to keep the characters they way they are. Animations don't need to replicate real life, but the way it's handled here is mesmerising.
What takes centre stage in this film is the relationship that builds up between Arlo and Spot, and this is quite a touching aspect of the plot. The two don't necessarily see eye to eye once the film begins, but as their adventure continues, the two spark a friendship that will crawl its way into your heart forever. Spot acts more like a dog than he does a boy and Arlo acts more like a boy than he does a dinosaur. It's hilarious to see the roles reversed and it just makes you instantly fall in love with these characters.
Unfortunately, the rest of the plot of The Good Dinosaur is repetitive and lacking substance. The film will certainly teach kids a thing or two about life, but the plot is really just Arlo attempting to make his way home and running into a dinosaur here and there. A pack of dinosaurs will show up every ten or so minutes, make the journey a bit difficult and then they'll leave. It results in a (mostly) predictable outcome. I even managed to predict what the final shot of this movie would be, which was rather upsetting. It's still sweet, but I would've liked to have been surprised by this film's plot. For example, Inside Out, while on the surface is also a film about returning home, has a story that gets unbelievably deep. The Good Dinosaur doesn't.
To sum up, The Good Dinosaur is a stunningly animated tale of friendship and family that's heart warming, emotional and funny, but its plot is repetitive and it lacks the thematic depth a lot of the other Pixar movies have.