This film proves that Pixar can entertain and touch hearts without being too inventive or original
After Inside Out (2015), The Good Dinosaur marked the first time ever Pixar released two films in a year and pleasingly, despite not being as creative and magical as most of their other films, it is still a highly entertaining and moving animated feature with absolutely beautiful photorealistic sets, and the usual human-meets-beast formula reversed -- the beast talks but the human doesn't.
Directed by Peter Sohn, who usually only works as the story artist or voice actor at Pixar (he did that too for this one), and written by one of the co-writers of Inside Out, Meg LeFauve, the story takes place in an alternate timeline where the meteor does not hit Earth and dinosaurs continue to live and therefore stay on top of the food chain. Herbivore species become farmers, carnivores are either honourable or cruel, while humans are still like cavemen. That's not completely impossible if you think about it as nobody knows how dinosaurs really were and how they could've evolved.
The protagonist is a young Apotosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) who has a kind heart but is too cowardish compared to his siblings. Due to his inability to kill a human child (Jack Bright) he caught stealing his family's food, it indirectly caused the death of his father and not long after that, he gets lost faraway from home after falling into a river while attempting to hunt down the human child for revenge, and must find his way back quickly as he needs to help his mother survive the cold season that's hitting soon. An unlikely friendship between Arlo and the adorable innocent puppy-like human child (named Spot by Arlo) is formed as the two embark on dangerous journey back home while crossing paths with other good and bad dinosaurs along the way.
With Arlo being a "Longneck" on journey to find his family and courage, the film would immediately sound like a ripoff of the classic The Land Before Time (1988) with similar elements from Jungle Book (1967), The Lion King (1994), How to Train Your Dragon (2010) or even Walking with Dinosaurs (2013). However, despite the cliches and the lack of originality, The Good Dinosaur can be considered quite a miracle to have turn out this fine after years of development hell since 2009. Pixar managed to deliver most of what we would expect from them --- create stunning visuals, design fantastic characters, write great humour for all ages, pace the narrative well, make it a true adventure, let the characters grow and learn, and emotionally engage so effectively that even male audiences would find it challenging not to tear up. Some of the best scenes don't even have a single dialogue. Trademark Pixar right there.
If there's anything that's missing in Inside Out, it's cute characters and sufficient humour, but you'd get a satisfying dose of that from this family-friendly animation that certainly not only kids would enjoy. Also, the Velociraptors here are perhaps the closest to how the actual dinosaur may had looked like compared to any other film including the recent Jurassic World (yes, raptors have feathers according to new scientific discoveries). Now let's just not think about whether it's possible for Diplodocids to run like how Arlo does in the film.
Pixar short film featured: Sanjay's Super Team --- Finally, a creative, original animated short that does not involve romance. Purposeful, relatable, done without any dialogue or lyrics, and can be an inspiration to a bigger idea -- make a film featuring gods/deities as superhero warriors!
Malaysia censorship: Nothing seems to be cut. There's a brutal "beheading" of a gigantic bug but even that wasn't censored. #InsectCruelty
To watch in 3D? I didn't watch it in 3D but the visuals are fantastic. If your nearest cinema can cater to 3D screenings well, I'd say go ahead.
Second opinion: My girlfriend liked the film too, saying that it's super cute and touching, and although The Good Dinosaur has a predictable storyline, she doesn't think it's fair to compare it to Inside Out.
Verdict: Second best American animated film of 2015, right behind the other Pixar production released this year.
Rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Animated family adventure comedy drama
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Peter Sohn
Screenwriter: Meg LeFauve
Cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A. J. Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand
Malaysia Release Date: 26 November 2015
Local Distributor: (no info)
Production: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
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