A little holiday special of mine to review a film I saw on Thanksgiving's Eve. While we're eating food, enjoying family, enjoying football (some of you anyway) I have here a holiday special commemorating the importance of family much like Thanksgiving does for us. Featuring more dinosaurs than your usual grand marshals at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade I give you 'The Good Dinosaur.'WARNING
Like all holiday traditions, it is my own tradition to put up the usual spoiler alert. Of course some of you might choose to see 'Viktor Frankenstein' instead; which looks to me like someone took 'Young Frankenstein' too seriously. XD But as for 'Good Dinosaur'; I guess the biggest spoiler I have for you is that what you saw in the trailers or the sneak previews....that pretty much is the whole movie. In terms of climbing higher on the evolutionary chart; PIXAR has kind of hit a plateau here. But that doesn't mean the film's bad.
I'll let you all know in a minute. So while you digest your turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing or your curry enjoy this review.THE GOOD DINOSAUR
PIXAR is always expected to be the film making company about "Firsts." They were among the first to create a fully CGI animated feature; as well as make a trilogy out of it where the third actually didn't suck. They were also among the first to make a movie where the first five minutes were among the most memorable and visually celebrated to a point where 'The Simpsons' parodied it exactly and at Disney California Adventure's Animation studio; it represents the entire film itself. They also were the first to create the most successful interpretation of personified human emotions without making it stupid. They were also the first company to ultimately tell Disney to dump the whole traditional animation scene and come out with their own CGI mega hits featuring CGI princesses adding more money to The Mouse's pockets.
So with PIXAR; you really expect that with each film they come out with is going to be really ground breaking and game-changing.
But then....there's things like 'Cars' which they DID make. No 'Cars' isn't a horrible series of movies (thesequelsucksthough); but they do stand as a testament that not everything PIXAR makes is high art and expected to mature our senses with more advanced storytelling. Sometimes they come out with movies that aren't complex enough and are just straight-forward stories that teach us morals we've seen countless times before and won't really change our perspective on life.
'The Good Dinosaur' is no exception.
And yet the movie DOES have a first. It's a first for PIXAR to create a short that actually is more daring than the movie itself. For the first time we have an animated short featuring Indian Americans (NOT Native Americans by the way; people who are FROM India) celebrating the Hindu religion that isn't really viewed as much in the American consciousness. (Despite the fact there's well over 3.4 billion Hindus in the world.) It's the story of a young boy's love for Western super hero shows over his father's traditional love for Hindu deities. The boy has a vision of three of them: Durga, Hanuman and Vishnu as super heroes fighting a multi-armed multi headed monster....who you COULD interpret as Kali but I doubt that's what they were going for. Through awesome super hero fighting the young boy finds respect for the deities. Ultimately teaching us one thing; if you want kids to truly appreciate religion you need to make the religious icons a team of bad ass super heroes. So expect a super hero team comprised of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad to represent the three major religions of the world to join forces and do battle with the three main enemies of religion: independent thought, science and logic. ;D
So yeah. The short featuring a non Caucasian non Judeo-Christian viewpoint is rather bold on PIXAR's part.
But their feature presentation: not so much.
The only unique perspective here is that the meteor that supposedly killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago actually missed the Earth. So as a result; dinosaurs were allowed to advance. And in true Disney tradition; they talk. And even in more line of Disney tradition; they're pretty cute looking.
But one unique thing they did was actually have the dinosaurs being inventive and do complex human things like farming and herding. Yes; dinosaurs are doing human tasks because humans technically don't exist yet.
Of course if this movie followed science to a T; humans would NEVER evolve if dinosaurs were still around. Dinosaurs thrived for millions of years and in this movie continue to do so. Conditions would have remained the same and dinosaurs would have still thrived not giving mammals a chance to advance and inherit the world which would eventually lead to the evolution of humans.
But no matter how you look at the science of prehistoric life you need to ultimately remember one important thing: the dinosaurs f**king talk!! It's pointless to argue about this movie's credibility on evolutionary science when you have dinosaurs talking growing crops. So let's not even bring science up in this family friendly view of dinosaurs and take it like it is.
The movie's dinosaurs are a family of sauropods comprised of a mama, papa, brother, sister...and our main protagonist. The little "cuteasaurus" Arlo; who also grows up to be a real "pussysaurus." Due to his size, weak physical abilities and inherit fear of everything: Arlo is growing up to a rather pathetic representation of the prehistoric beasties we love. He's about as intimidating as a dinosaur from 'The Far Side'; which is what he looks a lot like. He makes Barney looks like Batman.
Barney Batman: Hoo hoo hoo!! Where are they!!? Hyuk yuk yuk yuk!
Actually speaking of "Hyuk yuk"; Arlo and all the other dinosaurs in this film live in what seems like Prehistoric Mid-West. They all talk in Western accents like cowboys and farm folk would in the human-tongue many years later in the Old West. Doesn't matter if dinosaurs or humans evolved first: evolution will produce crackers and hicks one way or another. ;D Arlo and his family are simple farm folk preparing for the winter. With the main father figure gone; it's become a real struggle for the family to produce enough crops to stay alive all winter. To make matters worse, they have a "critter" eating their food. If you can guess what this "critter" is judging from the previews; then you guessed right. It's our other protagonist Spot. Spot is that little Neanderthal kid that behaves very much like a dog. Evidently humans evolved from wolves more than they did apes in this movie.
With Arlo angry at this thieving little troglodyte; he gives chase to it only to fall into the river, get knocked unconscious and get lost. Yep; it's one of those movies again. It's like 'Finding Nemo': main hero dragged out of his comfort zone to find his family, have a friendly companion and meet all sorts of odd characters along the way. Not generally a bad thing; but nothing extraordinary.
The main difference though is that 'Finding Nemo' gave screen time to a lot of these characters the main heroes meet. We got attached to them as a result. 'The Good Dinosaur' gives rather minimal screen time to a lot of these characters Arlo and Spot meet. Take for example a Triceratops/Bastadon looking dinosaur who's main character trait is that he's partially crazy collecting various animals like they were his "spirits guides." One he has is called 'Dream Crusher' who prevents him from "setting unrealistic goals." (I need a spirit guide like that.
) After a brief five minute scene between him, Arlo and Spot....we never see him again for the rest of the movie. Arguably the funniest character in the film and he never shows up again.
Same thing with other dinosaurs like these raptors who are called "rustlers." They're presented in the film like vicious blood thirsty hillbillies and are gone as soon as they are introduced. That's bad news to the toy companies who made these guys: kids need to spend more time with a character to like them enough to buy them. Their designs aren't even that great anyway. They look like Fraggles that mated with Skeksis. (Ew...) Actually I'm pretty sure they were Troodons more than they were Velociraptors; but since Troodons never appeared in a Jurassic Park film no one really knows that. (Unless you played that shitty Jurassic Park game where Troodons did appear.)
The most memorable characters Arlo and Spot meet are a family of Tyrannosaurus Rexes who act like cattle herders. They're pretty much Bruce and the other sharks from 'Finding Nemo'; in that they're vicious top predators made super nice towards their "prey." Their physical traits, the way they run and the way they talk are what make them the stand-out characters in the film. It's especially neat to see how they run: it's like a normal T-Rex run but also looking like they're riding horses at the same time. It's a dinosaur Western for sure; though I doubt it tops the best Dino Western of them all: 'The Valley of Gwangi.' I'm surprised I made that reference over an obvious 'Land Before Time' reference here with Arlo being an even wussier version of LittleFoot. Actually; Arlo is a talking prehistoric animal who has more intelligence than his young Neanderthal companion. Another movie did that first too: Ice Age!! Yes; that gag-filled movie franchise featuring that crazy ass squirrel and John Leguizzamo did something long before the geniuses at PIXAR did it first! Even the ending seems similar; but we'll get to that soon.
So as I was saying; the T-Rexes help Arlo find his way back to the river and his courage making them loveable protagonists. So does this movie have any recurring antagonists? Yes they do; a flock of vicious scavenging Pteranodons. These are our primary villains: and it seems like Pteranodons are becoming real assholes in dinosaur films more and more. More so than the T-Rexes. I mean when they bite things; they intend to eat them. When the T-Rexes in the film bite something, they usually just do it to scare them off. Seriously; the main Pteranodon is caught in one of the T-Rex's jaws and he just flies off after he lets him go. So he just flies off spooked rather than remain in those killer jaws screaming "OH GOD!! THIS IS THE WORST FEELING EVER!! I AM IN EXTREME PAIN!!!"
Of course I need to mention the bond between Arlo and Spot. Like the previous 'adventure where you run into odd characters' thing PIXAR and Disney have done, they do the usual heart-felt bonding between two unlikely friends thing too. Virtually ALL PIXAR films do this. It's supposed to be more special here though since it's the central focus of the movie: and it's a dinosaur and a not-quite human boy. It definitely has it's nice quiet heart-felt moments; but it's stuff we've seen before. Most of the moments here were from previous PIXAR films; so it's like PIXAR just recreated something with dinosaurs. But it's still good. It's better than Disney's previous attempt at a fully CGI-animated dinosaur movie named...well...'Dinosaur.' Mostly because it doesn't have those f**king lemurs! That and the visuals are better in this film rather than the dull-as-sin desert from that movie.
But still when you compare it to the previous film PIXAR did 'Inside-Out'; it's very run-of-the-mill paint-by-the-numbers for PIXAR. I don't think Pixar put as much effort into making this as spectacular as the previous one simply because "geniuses have to eat too."
I think for the most part you'll enjoy it; but I do find it to be forgettable once the journey ends and Arlo and Spot must part ways once Arlo arrives home and Spot joins a Neanderthal family. Again; like the ending to Ice Age. The knuckleheads at Twentieth Century Fox did something before PIXAR did...score one for the company who continuously finds ways for the acorn-loving squirrel to do more stupid insane shit!
It's an average movie; nothing monumental as to what you'd expect from PIXAR: but for what it's worth, still good to watch.
And that my friends is 'The Good Dinosaur.'
But wait....wasn't there a film earlier this year about 'The BAD Dinosaur?' Yes: it's called 'Jurassic World' and I'm amazed I haven't reviewed it yet. Well I still want to; so for Thanksgiving left-overs; the next film I will review will be 'Jurassic World: The Lost Review.'
Until then, have a Happy Thanksgiving and don't get carried away feeding your dog/cave-boy leftovers. ;D