The Good Dinosaur
The Really Wild Bunch
released out now! PG | 101 minutes Director Peter sohn Cast raymond ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey wright, Frances Mcdormand, sam elliott, steve Zahn, anna Paquin
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” was a phrase Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs was fond of, and it could almost be a maxim for The Good Dinosaur. 2015 marks the first time two Pixar films have been released in one year, and in a lot of respects, this second effort couldn’t be more different from summer’s Inside Out. While that gloried in its complexity, The Good Dinosaur feels at heart like a child’s picture book, from the bright, colourful characters to the simple linear plot. That comparison isn’t intended as an insult; this is a rich and rewarding family film.
It kicks off with the asteroid destined to hit Earth narrowly missing, meaning that millions of years later, humans and dinosaurs co-exist. Dino-parents Momma (Frances McDormand) and Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) are raising three kids on their farm. Gangly Arlo (Jack McGraw, and later, when he’s a little older, Raymond Ochoa) is the runt of the litter, struggling to live up to his father’s expectations. After tragedy strikes, Arlo finds himself lost in the wilderness, with only a feral human child named Spot for company.
A four-legged, long-necked klutz, Arlo is ostensibly an Apatosaurus, but that sort of information isn’t offered up readily; it’s likely these dinosaurs will simply be classified as “the green one”, “the funny one”, “the scary one”. The bold hues of the prehistoric creatures only make the mountainous backdrops all the more stunning. Paying homage to the Western with lush ranges and treacherous rivers, the scenery is among the most beautiful to ever spring from a computer.
That landscape certainly gives Arlo a rough time of it – battered, bruised and tormented, he’s one of the more put-upon animated heroes of recent times, and some of the rival species he come across could prove a touch too scary for the youngest viewers. There’s also a nice balance of adult-friendly gags thrown in with the visual humour. Where the film really comes into its own is in Arlo’s interactions with Spot. Director Peter Sohn has been upfront about this being a “boy and his dog” story, with the killer Pixar twist here being that the human is the dog. Spot is an incredible creation, skittish, snarling, scrambling around on all fours. The relationship that develops between the two has real heart, and will have you feigning grit in your eye more than once.
Certain flaws keep The Good Dinosaur from earning a spot on the Pixar podium. For all the scares thrown in en route, it never really feels like Arlo’s ever that far away from home. The parental figures have a tendency to talk in platitudes, and the human/ prehistoric creatures don’t feel as fresh as some other Pixar creations. But for a film of uncomplicated pleasures, there’s much to delight in.
To find inspiration for the landscapes, the director and DOP scouted canyons in Wyoming, and boated down Snake River.
Another 30 seconds, and the boy’s going to rip that big one’s throat out.