The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Dinosaur

“Little arms, big heart”

Directed by Peter Sohn
Starring Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliot, Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright

65 million years after a giant asteroid doesn’t hit the Earth, a family of apatosaurus headed by Ida (McDormand) and Henry (Wright) work a small family farmstead with Flintstones-style technology. Their smallest child is Arlo (Ochoa), a runt with out-sized feet, and Henry asks him to protect the grain silo from ‘critters’ to earn a sense of self-esteem. When he takes pity on the critter – a young caveboy (Bright) – Henry is killed in a flood when they pursue the boy.

As the surviving family members struggle to get the harvest in, the critter returns. Arlo chases him seeking revenge. The two are swept away and must work together to find their way home, with Arlo eventually bonding with the boy and naming him Spot after he finds food for Arlo. They must struggle against predatory, storm-chasing pterosaurs, work with T-rex ranchers (led by Sam Elliot’s Butch) against velociraptor rustlers, and overcome the great storm which sweeps regularly across the land.

What’s wrong with it?

Oh, dear lord this one hurts! My two year old daughter was howling on and off through the last hour and pretty much non-stop for the last ten minutes. Henry’s death has been described as ‘like Mufasa’s death all over again’, and the stormchasing, kitty-eating pterosaurs are pretty horrifying. Even the ending is more bittersweet than uplifting.

Apparently, dinosaurs are so perfect that in 65 million years they have not evolved physically at all, but have developed Flintstones agricultural tech without the use of opposable thumbs. Or, indeed, fingers.

And how much of an apatosaurus’ daily requirements can be met by a 20′ silo full of corn.

Despite having basically dog-level socio-intellectual development, humans have rudimentary textile skills, which dinosaurs don’t.

What’s right with it?

In fairness, after all the trauma, Arya’s first words as the credits rolled were ‘Can we watch that again?’

Holy shit, this thing is beautiful to look at.

How bad is it really?

It’s okay. The Good Dinosaur is visually stunning and has a decent, if rather downbeat narrative, but the trauma is pretty relentless, and the basic premise suffers from its refusal to follow through and move away from stock dinosaur models.

In all honesty, I’d probably be more forgiving if Pixar hadn’t already put out the sublime Inside Out this year. (If my review didn’t give it away, I loved Inside Out.)

Best bit (if such there is)?

Arlo sees a vision of his dead father, whose words – all things he said in life – help him to realise that he must stand on his own and protect his friend. It’s pretty moving; I blubbed.

What’s up with…?

  • The absence of physical evolution?
  • The fingerless tech?
  • Feral humans in shirts?

Ratings

Production values – OMGholyshit this film is gorgeous! We had serious discussions of whether the landscape shots were real or animated. 0
Dialogue and performances – The film is well-written and acted. Ochoa is especially impressive for a fourteen year old with a film to carry. Steve Zahn as lead pterosaur Thunderclap is a delightfully demented turn that would grace an 18 certificate serial killer movie, although it’s a bit full on for a kids movie. Also, Sam Elliot. 4
Plot and execution – The basic structure of the film is good, but my stars its a downer. That’s not in itself a bad thing, but I’m not sure that’s what it’s supposed to be like. 8
Randomness – This film fails evolutionary biology. I mean, seriously; 65 million years is a long time. Also, technology needs thumbs. 8
Waste of potential – I think they could have done a bit more work on this and produced something closer to their goals, a bit more sparky and a bit more… evolutionary. 9

Overall 29%

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