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Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur – Review

// Reviews (Film)

The Good Dinosaur is the new film from Disney Pixar and directorial debut from long time Pixar employee Peter Sohn. It follows the story of Apatosaurus Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) and his human companion Spot (voiced by Jack Bright) in their journey to find the way back home. The story itself is relatively simple, it is a tale of our protagonists finding themselves far away from home and working together though trials to make it back in one piece. There is a definite feel of films like The Incredible Journey helped along by the American Midwest setting taking us from beautiful forests to grasslands with the bond of friendship holding the film together. However, there are aspects that may seem lacking. For all its technical prowess and beautiful visuals there is a vague feeling of sparseness in parts of the story and world. This may be due to the scale of the dinosaurs, size wise it was sometimes hard to appreciate just how big they are in the film and just how far Arlo and Spot have to travel. This difficulty of scale made the vast world at times seem small and home not so far away.

The film is full of slices of quirky characters and although individually are well written and good, this gives the film a rather segmented feel. The characters have hits of Pixar brilliance but sometimes fall short of the mark. This may be due in part to some of the productions issues the film faced as well as the change in director mid project. That being said though, there are a couple of characters that may endure in the Pixar pantheon – my eyes being on Forest Woodbush (played by director Peter Sohn), the crazy pet collector who has amassed a fair amount of “critters”, and Spot, the lovable man beast who, even though he can’t speak, is able to communicate volumes. There are some other standout performances that enhance the overall feel of the film in the grand scheme of things. Butch (played by Sam Elliott) is a ranching T-Rex along with his family, daughter Ramsey (played by Anna Paquin) and son Nash (voiced by A. J Buckley). Butch is a character that brings some of the savagery back to the dinosaur world, he is tense, stoic and dominating, traits which are echoed through the entire film. His is a good example of the quality of the voice work on the film, the southern drawl with deep growls is perfect for a cowboy-rex. The same goes for the rest of the voice cast, great performances all round to help flesh out the characters and make them that little bit more real.

There are glimmers of a more adult darkness to the story too. Themes of loss and isolation are approached in a sometimes alarming and almost traumatic manner, heart strings are tugged and emotions toyed with enough for you to care about the fate Arlo and Spot. The characters are very human despite the majority being dinosaurs, but they all contain a primal element that keeps viewers on their toes. The humour also holds in a more adult tone, yes there is the traditional slapstick, but it seems more accessible to older viewers. The film has a good knack of springing a gag or a scene on you that is funny or seemingly transparent initially but is then followed by a feeling of “whoa that was actually kind of dark”. I liked it.

One thing the film most definitely cannot be faulted on is its beautiful use of visual for the settings and the weather. The artists involved on the film have outdone themselves with just how wondrous they’ve made the film look and feel. If you’ve never visited America, you come out feeling like you have and that you must. The world created in the film is also charmingly complemented by the musical score which is a splendid mix of traditional and non-traditional instruments and sounds. It’s this combination and familiarity that makes you at times forget that it’s a film about dinosaurs, which is a good thing.

The Good Dinosaur is a film that plays with expectations in a wonderful way that endears the film on the whole and is just believable enough to whisk you along with it. It is not the pinnacle of Pixars catalogue but it is no less a standout effort with a lot to give.

The Good Dinosaur is in UK cinemas from 27th November 2015.

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