In a world where the asteroid that supposedly hit the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs actually missed, Arlo the Apatosaurus also has a rough task ahead of him. On his family's farm each member must ‘make their mark’, usually by knuckling down and overcoming some difficult task; but try as he might, Arlo just can't seem to find an area to excel in. He's too small to till the fields or take on clearance work like his brother and sister and the family's chicken-like birds that he's supposed to be in charge of terrorise him mercilessly. Most things, in fact, scare him senseless.
After some Bambi-like trauma which younger children may find very upsetting, an encounter with a ‘critter’ who keeps raiding the family's food stocks leads both Arlo and the critter to be swept downriver and far away from home, out of sight of even the huge clawtooth mountain that overlooks the farm. Arlo must now face up to his fear and find his way home, perhaps with some help from an unexpected source.
Working like a reverse Finding Nemo, The Good Dinosaur follows Arlo and his occasional companions on the journey home, providing a pretty sparse look at a world where the dinosaurs lived on for millions of years than they did in reality.
Needless to say, the ‘critter’ that Arlo runs into is, in fact, a small human cave boy and the majority of the film focuses on the growing relationship between the two, as they come to trust each other. They come across a number of different dinos along their way but the cast feels relatively small and while Finding Nemo had the banter between Marlin and Dory to keep adults entertained, Arlo's travelling companion doesn't talk, which, when coupled with Arlo's frequent habits of screaming and getting knocked out, does make the film feel as if it's aimed at younger viewers.
To make up for this the film does provide some beautiful vistas, much of it looking almost real but this does create an odd tension with the design of Arlo and the other dinosaurs, as they are quite cartoony while the world around them is not.
While the story may be relatively slight, Pixar have not lost their penchant for emotionally devastating audiences, with a couple of moments of intense sadness, one of which is almost entirely wordless and a piece of bravura filmmaking that is as well done as anything Pixar have done before. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn't quite feel as if it can support these moments.
With Inside Out still so fresh in the mind, comparisons with that film are inevitable and a little unfavourable. The Good Dinosaur is a much simpler film, basically the story of a boy and his dog, only the boy is an Apatosaurus and the dog is a boy. While it's still very enjoyable, it doesn't quite live up to the standard expected of Pixar, even if those expectations are completely unfair and unreasonable. It's your own fault Pixar, for putting out so many good films in the past!
THE GOOD DINOSAUR / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: PETER SOHN / SCREENPLAY: MEG LEFAUVE / STARRING: JEFFREY WRIGHT, FRANCES MCDORMAND, RAYMOND OCHOA, JACK BRIGHT, STEVE ZAHN, SAM ELLIOTT, ANNA PAQUIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10