The Good Dinosaur (Peter Sohn, 2015)
2015 marks the first year that Pixar have released two films in the one year. Despite their frequent output of genius, one had to wonder: were they aiming too high? Would The Good Dinosaur measure up to the brilliance of Inside Out? Would the reboot of the Jurassic franchise help ignite our dinosaur love? Unfortunately, it would seem a no on both counts, with The Good Dinosaur shaping up to be Pixar’s first box office loss.
Taking some liberties with history, Peter Sohn’s debut feature The Good Dinosaur imagines a world where the asteroid that made dinosaurs extinct missed earth, and dinosaurs continued to roam amongst cavemen millions of years later. And apparently while humans were still yet to form comprehensive language, the dinosaurs with their tiny brains were all over it. The good dinosaur of the title is Arlo, a timid Apatosaurus who is eager to leave his mark, if only he can overcome his fears. After ending up far from home he joins forces with young caveboy, Spot, and together they make the long and risky journey back.
Though it certainly has its qualities, the problem with The Good Dinosaur is perhaps its target audience. While Pixar are widely regarded for films that appeal to both children and adults alike, their latest film is significantly less adult-friendly, while at times being a bit too scary for the littlies. It doesn’t – thankfully – shy overly away from demonstrating the predatory nature of beasts in the wild. Cute little animals are ripped apart by savage carnivores; there are various deaths. But as for those parents who have exclaimed “oh I should have done my research” because a key family member dies in the film, yeah you should have. Or, you know, you could have just seen pretty much ANY DISNEY MOVIE THAT’S EVER BEEN MADE. It’s becoming a bit too predictable and Disney may need to re-evaluate its stock standard plot lines soon. Good on them for including death – it’s something kids should know about – but Every. Damn. Time? Kids can overcome obstacles and succeed in life with two live parents too, you know.
Despite these problems, the message of the film is a beaut one. Following on from the wonderful message in Inside Out (co-written by The Good Dinosaur’s screenwriter, Meg LeFauve), The Good Dinosaur makes a point that it’s okay to have fear, that “if you ain’t scared, you ain’t alive!” BOO-YEAH. FIST PUMP. MAKE ALL THE CHILDREN SEE THIS. The other core message about leaving your mark on the world could have been better executed (especially if it didn’t have a prerequisite that one of your parents has to be dead), but there is certainly a worthy lesson for kids here. I should also admit that I did get a bit emotional at one point. It involved sticks.
Visually, The Good Dinosaur is a treat, and Pixar continue their gorgeous animation with apparent ease. Unfortunately, it just isn’t as entertaining as the many Pixar films before it (with the exception of the underwhelming Brave and Cars 2). Fingers crossed the studio can pull out another winner with 2016’s Finding Dory. Just please lay off the death this time.