The Good Dinosaur review

MV5BMTc5MTg2NjQ4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzcxOTY5NjE@._V1_SX214_AL_The Good Dinosaur is the second film this year from Pixar, and while not as ambitious as Inside Out, it finds strength in simplicity while showing off a new and interesting world. It’s not as high concept as Inside Out, Cars, or even Toy Story, but The Good Dinosaur presents a fun alternative natural history, as well as some of the most lush landscapes ever rendered on a computer.

A young apatosaur, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), is the smallest of three siblings. He is also clumsy and fearful, even of his farm’s chickens. While chasing a young human, Spot (Jack Bright), Arlo becomes separated from his family (Jeffrey Wright, Fances McDormand). Lost and alone, Arlo and Spot bond together as Arlo tries to find his way back home.

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Along the way, they meet other characters that of course help Arlo learn important life lessons. The most visually interesting character in the film is a shamanistic Styracosaurus with a population of smaller animals residing in his horns. Personally, the most appealing is Butch (Sam Elliot), a rancher Tyrannosaurus clearly modeled on Curly from City Slickers. There is also the closest thing the film has to character antagonists (nature is the main obstacle here), which are pterodactyls that worship the storms that frequent this world, following after with the manta “the storm provides” as kind of a riff on recent religious converts.

All of this takes place against the most photorealistic computer animation I have ever seen. The backgrounds and environment are literally perfect. Taking clear inspiration from the American West, the pine trees, mountains, givers, and fields are rendered in an awe-inspiring way. Every Pixar film to date has had moments of visual show-offishness, but each frame of this film is adoringly crafted. The 3D presentation only accentuates this effect. Additionally, the animators chose a more cartoonish style for the characters, with the designs echoing comics artists like Jeff Smith (Bone in particular feels like a reference point). This allows for maximum expressiveness of the characters, making them even more relatable. Both of these dovetail with story needs. The film has decent stretches of minimal to no dialogue, allowing these visual cues to take the lead.

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For a studio as ridiculously successful as Pixar, The Good Dinosaur is not a mind-blowing success. But those going in looking for a heartwarming story told by some of the most adroit visual storytellers on the planet will not be disappointed.

Also of note is the lead-in short film, Sanjay’s Super Team, about a young Indian boy’s struggle to reconcile his religious heritage and his affinity for American superheroes. Easily the best short from Pixar in the last four years, it is deeply personal but extremely relatable.

The Good Dinosaur opens in Philly theaters today,

Official site.

Author: Ryan Silberstein

Ryan spends his days at a company named one of the best to work for in the Philadelphia area, and his nights as a mysterious caped vigilante saving his city from the disease that is crime watching movies. He lives on a diet consisting of film, comic books, experimental beer, black coffee, and those big metal historical markers around town. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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