“The Good Dinosaur” is the kind of movie that makes you feel like running into the wilderness and hugging every tree until you break it in half with your love. However, it may also cause people to run through a forest, spitting on everything in sight and kicking squirrels that give them a cross look. Either way, it will make you feel something.
This is because the movie itself put so much emphasis on nature and the scenery of a pre-historic era. And quite frankly it should, as I’ve never seen such a richly detailed, hyper-realistic animated world before. You can see the slightest detail on the smallest leaf on the largest tree, feel the roaring rapids of the rivers as the waves crash into one another and see for miles the immensity and vastness of the rocky terrain. You’d be hard pressed to feel the same effect without actually going to these kinds of places. The only thing missing is the fresh air, which at this point in time would probably smell like Dino-feces. Ah, nature!
How befitting, too, that such attention on the revolutionary animation is clearly where the focus of the filmmakers was during the much-delayed production. Because the story that takes us through such wonders couldn’t be further from the same heights, settling for been-there-done-that.
In a world where dinosaurs were never blown off the face of the earth seems like a perfect Pixar scenario, rich for infinite possibilities for what kind of place we would live in. Would we ride the bus with raptors? Have our kids be taught by an aggravated t-rex?
But I think that was all too much for them, as the only thing they came up with was that dinosaurs would farm corn and herd oversized buffalo. Dinosaurs would then learn to talk like ranchers, exude good down-home vibes of workmanship and probably vote republican.
After a sudden tragedy a young, cowardly Apatosaurus named Arlo gets lost in the wilderness, where he meets up with a young human who Arlo makes his pet and aptly names Spot.
Spot barks and itches himself like a dog and, much like Arlo does, you can’t help but find him adorable. They form a sweet bond, one on the same level as any story about a boy and his pet does. It’s the kind of relationship that will make all the children stare at their parents with a doughy-eyed longing of “can we get a dog?” No, you may not. You have a fish.
As any story about a character overcoming nature does, the movie then proceeds to have many scenes of the two barreling through the gorgeous wilderness, encountering characters that either border delightfully goofy or horrifyingly insane. Both of which often seem more catered to adults than kids.
For the former we have a band of country/hick-voiced t-rex’s who gallop through the plains like they’re riding horses and an odd triceratops that “collects” friends, one of whom “protects me from having unrealistic goals.” I couldn’t help but bust out laughing, but also thinking kids wouldn’t get the joke. Same goes for a few other strange/hilarious moments, like one involving hallucinogens and another an awkward bathroom moment.
Juxtaposed with that are scenes that I’m shocked made it into a seemingly innocent kids movie, like psychopathic pterodactyls and raptors attacking and eating other dinosaurs. I know they contribute to the whole “nature is the biggest enemy” but, sometimes…my god.
In combining all these elements—the majestic setting, silly characters and terrifying scenarios—make for an odd tasting gumbo. It’s like Pixar was trying to make their simplest, biggest, most good-hearted movie yet but ended up with their weirdest. So weird to the point where I don’t know where to put my finger on it. It’s like a meal made from the hands of Zeus, then you taste it and deduce it came out of a freezer box.