‘Mummy, why is that lady sat over there crying so much?’
2015. The year Pixar granted us with two movies. After years and years of development hell The Good Dinosaur emerged in cinemas almost 4 months after Inside Out. The close to cinematic perfection that is Inside Out. With those two pressures alone the bar was set high – whilst The Good Dinosaur doesn’t get a place on the podium for best movies of 2015 it certainly deserves a rosette for good effort. The main idea is so Pixar in its originality, the central characters so endearing that it’s truly unfortunate how ill-served it is by the underdeveloped storyline. Yet, even with such a shallow storyline, the pathos is still being created. Which is why I was the ‘lady’ in the question above that was uttered by a small child sat near me in the cinema on Sunday. The question is, will children really understand how truly depressing much of the film is?
65 million years ago a meteor did not hit Earth. The dinosaurs were not made extinct. Two Apatosaurus farmers are watching in awe as their three eggs hatch. Their children are about to be born. There’s Libby, Buck and finally Arlo. As the three children grow up the differences between them quickly become apparent to their parents, specifically how different Arlo is two his older siblings. Libby and Buck swiftly adjust to life on the farm and perfect their chores, so much so that they are rewarded with a muddy foot-print on the family tree. Arlo does not. Arlo is shy and timid, terrified by most things including the chickens he has to feed everyday. Arlo’s father gives him some extra attention and finds him a purpose, to get rid off the pest that has been eating their food supply. They set a trap and Arlo waits in excited nervousness for the pest to be caught. When Arlo next checks the trap he find a feral cave-child. When Arlo finds himself unable to kill the pest his father rebukes him, and forces him to chase the pest through a ravine. On the way tragedy strikes and Arlo soon awakens to find himself far away from home and desperate to get back.
The majority of the film is of Arlo’s journey home. After slowly befriending the pest, even naming him Spot, the pair work together to get Arlo home. Their friendship is portrayed in such a beautiful way, so heart-warming and joyus. Both Arlo and Spot are really lovely characters who you find yourself truly rooting for and willing for their survival. This is the main success of the film and the main reason to stay engaged with it through its rather facile storyline. Arlo and Spot drift from one misadventure to next, meeting some ‘interesting’ characters and frequently running into danger. It’s at this point in the film when it becomes…strange. There’s a sequence which proceeds Arlo and Spot’s ingesting hallucinogenic berries that rivals that sequence in Dumbo. Other strange, occasionally wonderful, set pieces occur. Their joining up with a family of T-rex’s is wonderful. Thunderclap and the pterodactyls are not.
Overall, however, there is enough here to make it worthy of watching. It has the best of intentions, some gorgeous landscapes and two truly lovely leads. Their friendship is one of the studio’s best.
It’s not Pixar’s worst (Cars) or its best (Inside Out or Toy Story) but comfortably in-between.
Sanjay’s Super Team
The 7 minute short which precedes The Good Dinosaur is absolutely delightful and hopefully ground-breaking in terms of representation. Without dialogue, as most of the Pixar shorts are, we watch a young boy called Sanjay be torn between wanting to watch his cartoon (representing the modern world) and his father’s want for his son to pray with him (representing tradition). The film starts with a card stating ‘This is a (mostly) true story’ and it really comes across throughout. For Sanjay realises that the superhero’s adventures that he watches on tv share a lot with the stories of the Hindu gods. His mini-journey of discovery, attempting to align the two parts of his life, is fantastically done. The fact Pixar have made a film which diverts from their usual representation is crucial. Long may it continue!