Yabba-dabba-do time? Not quite

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY DON­ALD CLARKE TARA BRADY

THE GOOD DI­NOSAUR Di­rected by Peter Sohn. Star­ring Ray­mond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam El­liott, Anna Paquin, A. J. Buck­ley, Steve Zahn, Jef­frey Wright, Frances McDor­mand, Mar­cus Scrib­ner, Maleah Padilla. Cert PG, gen release, 101mins The premise – What if di­nosaurs were dirt-farm­ers? – doesn’t have quite the ap­peal­ing ring as Toy Story’s what if toys were alive? Or In­side Out’s what if feel­ings had feel­ings? But the over­ture, in which an as­ter­oid fails to im­pact at Chicx­u­lub, Mex­ico, some 65 mil­lion years ago, prom­ises real good, pos­si­bly yabba-dabba-do time.

Not quite. In­stead, a story cred­ited to five au­thors and an ad­di­tional screen­writer con­geals into an over­long weepie fam­ily drama sta­pled to­gether from bits of other weepie fam­ily dra­mas: the parental loss of Bambi, the fi­nal farewell of The Jun­gle Book and the in­cred­i­ble jour­ney of, well, In­cred­i­ble Jour­ney. It is, ad­di­tion­ally, a western, re­plete with T-rex ranch­ers and mur­der­ous, ma­raud­ing Ptero­dacty­lus.

There’s quite enough go­ing on but just to add to the struc­tural flaws: Arlo, the film’s young hero, is a like­able cre­ation but he needs far fewer lines; he re­peat­edly ex­plains Ob­vi­ously, we cel­e­brate the fact that, for the first time in aeons, Johnny Depp isn’t es­say­ing a vari­a­tion of Widow Twankey. He has cer­tainly slapped on the make-up to play James “Whitey” Bul­ger, Ir­ish-Amer­i­can crime boss of Bos­ton, but at no point is he seen bal­anc­ing on a bar­rel while im­per­son­at­ing Tommy Cooper. Barely recog­nis­able in bad leather jacket, grey teeth, bleached con­tacts and re­ced­ing hair, Depp de­liv­ers a very con­vinc­ing Southie psy­chopath. (Why are Ir­ish gang­sters al­ways so filthy in the movies?)

Un­for­tu­nately, the script his own ac­tions where word­less vi­su­als and com­edy might suf­fice. And then there’s in­ter­nal logic is­sues: why do they plough with their heads in the soil in­stead of us­ing their tails? How are the di­nosaurs ty­ing knots with­out op­pos­able thumbs?

To be fair, the film is less of a gumbo than it might be. The cen­tral buddy pair­ing be­tween Arlo the Apatosaurus and Spot the cave-boy makes for cutes al­lows lit­tle shade to the char­ac­ter. He has one good scene where he con­grat­u­lates his lit­tle son on be­ing rep­ri­manded for wal­lop­ing a school chum. But, for the most part, Whitey is in the same state of closed-in de­range­ment.

Let’s be frank. What we have here is the best fake Martin Scors­ese film of the year (al­ways an over­crowded genre). In­deed, Wil­liam Mon­a­han drew on the Bul­ger story when adapt­ing In­fer­nal Af­fairs into The De­parted. Joel Edger­ton is strong as John Con­nolly, the FBI man who con­cocted a du­bi­ous con­spira-

Those big eyes are go­ing to sell a lot of lunch boxes

and feels; the land­scapes are flaw­less and younger ama­teur palaeon­tol­o­gists will be pleased by the in­clu­sion of such lesser-spot­ted beasts as the Styra­cosaurus (who gets the best lines in the pic­ture).

The Good Di­nosaur is a much bet­ter film than Cars but the newer movie’s propen­sity for sen­ti­men­tal­ity and Amer­i­cana does in­deed re­call the ear­lier, unlovely Pixar ad­ven­ture.

In com­mon with John Las­seter’s 2006 fran­chis­es­tarter, the mar­riage of highly car­toon­ish char­ac­ters on highly re­al­is­tic back­grounds is not al­ways a happy one.

Ul­ti­mately, that won’t mat­ter to the bot­tom line: di­nosaurs, like mo­tor ve­hi­cles, will al­ways shift lunch boxes and du­vet cov­ers. cy with Bul­ger’s mob: if the Ir­ish hood­lums de­liver the Mafia they will be al­lowed to kill and rob with rel­a­tive im­punity. It soon tran­spires that Bul­ger is buy­ing this in­dul­gence with chick­en­feed and lies.

One can sense Scott Cooper’s film strain­ing not to be a Scors­ese film but al­most ev­ery­thing else is in place: the shots to the back of the head; the an­grily ex­cluded women; the du­bi­ous glam­our of or­gan­ised violence. There are worse things than an en­er­getic cover version. CHRIST­MAS WITH THE COOPERS Di­rected by Jessie Nel­son. Star­ring Alan Arkin, John Good­man, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, An­thony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Steve Martin. Cert 12A, gen release, 106mins Decades ago, when Hal­loween meant ap­ple bob­bing and a raisin-based dessert, a Hol­ly­wood Christ­mas was a sight to be­hold: a bo­nanza of sea­son­ally themed jumpers and per­fectly di­men­sioned gift boxes all tied up with im­pos­si­bly beau­ti­ful rib­bons. Nowa­days the rest of the world en­joys the same jumpers and gift boxes, and the Hol­ly­wood Christ­mas has lost much of its lus­tre.

But di­rec­tor Jessie Nel­son just won’t stand for it. Christ­mas with the Coopers pulls out all the stops with an un­end­ing blitzkrieg of Christ­masi­ness: there will be car­olling, hol­i­day-card per­fect to­bog­gan­ing, gin­ger­bread houses, gin­ger­bread per­sons, and – for all we know – 11 lords a’ leap­ing.

The lav­ish­ness doesn’t end with the di­a­betic-coma in­duc­ing treats: here comes the star­ri­est of ensem­ble casts. Steve Martin’s nar­ra­tion – a mash-up of The Won­der Years and ’Twas the Night Be­fore Christ­mas – rounds up a ding­dong of sub­plots. The meet­cute ro­mance be­tween Repub­li­can-vot­ing GI Joe (Ob­vi­ous Child’s Jake Lacy) and emo­tion­ally mud­dled artist Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is just what we wanted; the in­com­pre­hen­si­ble friend­ship be­tween el­derly pa­tri­arch Bucky (Alan Arkin) and dam­aged wait­ress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) how­ever is like re­ceiv­ing socks – in the wrong size.

Some nar­ra­tive strands half work: An­thony Mackie’s up­tight ar­rest­ing of­fi­cer is in­ter­est­ing com­pany, but even the re­li­able Marisa Tomei can’t do any­thing with the thank­less spin­ster char­ac­ter who finds her­self in the back of Mackie’s po­lice car.

It’s a ter­ri­ble waste of tal­ent. Bah, hum­bug.

Yawn: Keaton and Good­man

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