review//THE GOOD DINOSAUR

Grade: B+

THE GOOD DINOSAUR
Directed by Peter Sohn
Starring Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Raymond Ochoa

After sixteen, mostly-good films, Pixar has developed quite the ability to create emotionally compelling stories contained in beautiful animation. Their newest outing hits all the usual notes, but falls short of a solid structure. With incredible imagery and fun characters, The Good Dinosaur is worth a watch.

Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is an Apatosaurus on a mission to prove himself to his family. The runt of the litter, he has big shoes to fill. When his dad (Jeffrey Wright) charges him with guarding the family's well-earned crops, Arlo crumbles in fear at the sight of a lost and starving human boy. By trying to prove a lesson, Arlo and is father chase after the boy, only for the dad to get swept away by the river to his demise. After his second attempt at chasing the child, Arlo absentmindedly finds himself in the midst of the adventure of a lifetime, encountering life outside the safety of home.

What feels almost like a western set in the stone age, The Good Dinosaur is a tale of branching out and testing the water as much as it's a tale of survival. Arlo is so innocently sweet that it's impossible not to find him adorable. Equally as adorable is the human child, Spot. Sitting on the edge of brilliance, the film only falters in its choppy story.

Infamously a long-gestating Pixar project, the plot suffers from too many small ideas without a big picture emphasis, leaving awkward moments sprinkled between brilliant moments. The joy of watching the Little Dinosaur That Could learn how to channel his own strength is passable as one of Pixar's more groundbreaking animated efforts (the water is so believably real looking). It's just a shame the overall product can't compare.

It is, by no means, Pixar's worst outing. That title still belongs to Cars 2. But what was once the definition of Oscar buzz, The Good Dinosaur falters somewhere between sameness and predictability. It's almost as if there's a secret Pixar skeleton plot machine where elements of a story are placed around the standard happenings. For example, an important figure dying and our hero setting off on an unexpected personal journey. Finding Nemo anyone?

There are plenty of reasons to see The Good Dinosaur, the animation being the main draw. But, be prepared to finish the film wondering if you missed something. It goes by quickly and there are definite pieces of inspired work.

Rating: PG
Runtime: 100 minutes

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