The Good Di­nosaur

The Really Wild Bunch

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews - Matt May­tum

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.

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