Pixar's 16th feature film, The Good Dinosaur, which opens Thanksgiving week on Wednesday November 25th, is one of the most subtle, heartwarming, tender, and telling releases the studio has ever made. It also should not be compared to the studio's first 2015 feature, Inside Out, as the two films have distinct goals, premises, and stories that, while on their own should be celebrated, shouldn't be used to gauge one another's performances. The Good Dinosaur isn't a masterpiece, but it knows what it is and exceeds in what it tries to do in nearly every way. Read the rest of my The Good Dinosaur review after the break!
Of the countless aspects of the film that I love, the one that stands out most to me is the subtly. The subtly in Arlo's performance. The subtly in primitive, cave-man-like Spot's movements. The subtly in the film's beautiful, endearing score by Mychael and Jeff Danna. The subtly in the lighting design by Pixar veteran Sharon Calahan. The Good Dinosaur is gargantuan in premise, but meticulously microscopic in it's execution. This subtly brings a whole new life and depth to the film and it's characters.
Juxtaposed to the film's subtly is it's simplistic story. In essence and without giving too much away, Arlo, our 11-year-old Apatosaurus is stolen from his homestead by a mighty river along the banks of the Clawed-Tooth Mountains. Arlo is accompanied by a primitive young boy named Spot on his journey back home, bumping into several eccentric characters along the way. Sounds pretty simple. And while it is, it also allows for a much more moving and telling character study. As Arlo matures, so does the film; this is my favorite part of the film. The endearing, rather by-the-numbers opening matures into a fascinating, captivating frame that studies the trials and tribulations of a child in the wilderness. Arlo's maturity grows out of the maturing of the story in which he is thrown into. Seeing the two work hand-in-hand, especially at the end, is one of the most moving spectacles that Pixar has ever conceived.
One small note that I'd like to include is that the juxtaposition of the ultra-realistic world against the cartoony characters never took me out of the film. Although this may be because I have now been used to it for a year-or-so, I believe it is because we are introduced to Arlo literally as he is cracking open his shell. Seeing baby Arlo even more gummy and cartoony than his more grown up self in the rest of the film really helps take away the distraction that many initially pointed out in the teaser trailer. And let's be real- when are baby Pixar characters never the cutest?!
Basically, all I really want to say is that while The Good Dinosaur may seem more like an A Bug's Life than a Toy Story, the film still has just as much love, care, and dedication that make all Pixar films heart-warm, charming, hilarious, down-to-earth crowd-pleasers. The Good Dinosaur may not reach the emotional heights of Inside Out, but it doesn't need to; it has charm down in spades, and that's good enough for me.
Director Peter Sohn and the rest of his amazingly courageous team should be extremely proud of the work that they did in bringing main character Arlo's story to the silver screen. Not acknowledging the hard time that the Good Dino has gone through would be a disservice to and a discrediting of the hard work that it took to make this film. I'm not going to go through the film's development problems for you, we have archives for that. I do want to point out however that I could not tell during the film that there were production problems. The story and characters are worked marvelously together and felt fresh and new just like Pixar's very best. For that, I congratulate both Peter Sohn, original creator Bob Peterson, Producer Denise Ream, and the extraordinary team that built The Good Dinosaur from the ground up.
I also want to congratulate the short film Sanjay's Super Team's Director Sanjay Patel and his team on a touching, beautifully made, and extraordinarily conceived short that plays before The Good Dinosaur. Teaching western audiences about sometimes alien topics is challenging, but by bringing in an extremely personal story and making such a beautiful film is a accomplishment all on its own.
The Good Dinosaur and Sanjay's Super Team hit theaters this Wednesday, November 25th, 2015!
"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life."