The ‘finding your way back home’ narrative has been lifted straight out of Finding Nemo, while the notion of a young son vying to do right by his recently deceased father is effectively just The Lion King – while our protagonist in this production shares a similar sense of physical vulnerability that we’ve seen in Bambi. The premise is simple; the asteroid that hit the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs millions of years ago, just happened to miss – as we see the first communications and relationships build up between mankind and the great non-extinct beasts.
Our hero is the Apatosaurus Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the runt of the litter, forever in the shadows of his older siblings Buck and Libby. While they help out on their parents farm, tragedy strikes when Arlo’s father (Jeffrey Wright) is killed during a storm. As Momma (Frances McDormand) struggles to maintain the crops, the reticent and cowardly Arlo is confronted with the being that is eating all of their food saved for the winter; the abandoned human child Spot (Jack Bright). Though unsure of each other at first, when the pair find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere, they may just end up needing one other to survive, and to find their way back home.
The paramount friendship to this piece is similar to that of which we see in How to Train Your Dragon, except this time in reverse, as it’s the beast keeping the human being as a pet. Irrespective of that, this again points to a film devoid of originality, as the crux of this narrative and the prevalent source of emotion derives from their alliance, which we can draw parallels to in our own relationships with our pets – just like we do with Hiccup and Toothless. However this is the more family orientated piece of the two, with a distinct lack of peril within this endeavour. You never truly fear for our protagonist’s survival, with no genuine sense of danger. Whereas just look at Toy Story 3 – there’s a moment towards the latter stages where you feel that the lead roles are going to die (even on a second watch this occurs) – and The Good Dinosaur is without that intensity or threat, which is detrimental to our engagement.
That’s not to say the film is without the trademark Pixar jokes aimed at the parents in the audience, with an indelible sequence whereby Arlo and Spot accidentally eat a gone-off fruit which sends them into an hallucinogenic state. This scene, amongst so many others, provide what this film thrives in most predominantly, the striking visual experience. The vast, beautiful landscapes that make up the background are formed using photorealistic CGI and it makes for a truly mesmerising watch on the big screen – as one of Pixar’s most ambitious films, aesthetically, to date.
The Good Dinosaur is a bonafide tear-jerker, and in spite of the fact it feels somewhat more manufactured than usual, it still does the trick. A traditionalist and conventional affair, this film is formulaic and plays up to the tropes of the genre we know all too well. Lacking the depth and profundity we’re used to, this is a more elementary offering from the studio, more comparable to Brave or Cars than Up or Wall-E, which were so remarkably subversive and intelligent, whereas this thrives in a more simplistic approach. That being said, there is still something so ineffably comforting about that sense of familiarity, and at times pictures of this nature are exactly what the doctor ordered.