With Pixar, you always get good quality. But quality doesn’t necessarily always mean good taste.
In “The Good Dinosaur,” Pixar puts plastic-y apatosauruses in a panoramic, hyper-realistic Rocky Mountain setting. I say no to this!
Because what do we end up seeing? Talking, plastic green kiddie-toy dinos (like, from McDonald’s) that work on a realistic farm out West, like they’re in a cinematically gorgeous Sam Peckinpah Western or something.
Isn’t that kind of massive incongruity the very definition of kitsch? Not the dinos-working-the-land part. (Everyone knows dinosaurs were excellent farmers.) I’m talking about the hyper-realistic (for a cartoon) landscapes—peopled with plastic toys! That’s just dino-sized kitsch!
But it matters not. Because it’s a toddler movie. It’s just that “Dinosaur” is, after all, a Pixar film, and therefore fun enough to keep an adult awake, and so I personally object to this kitschy aesthetic of these green toys in my moviegoing experience. The bottom line is, though, that it’s quite a good small-child film.
On Beyond Asteroid
“The Good Dinosaur” tells us a story about the logical outcomes of the Earth not getting hit by a giant asteroid—dinosaurs would therefore still rule, of course.
The large herbivore types own farms, you see, and they till the land using their own heads as plowshares, irrigate the crops by sucking up water and spitting vast quantities of it on the cornfields, and collect large, dino-chicken eggs.
This particular dino family we’re getting to know, has a little knobby-kneed litter-runt named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), who’s main problem in life is he’s terrified of everything.
He goes out for some man-time with dad (Jeffrey Wright), who gets swept away in a flood. On his own now, little Arlo has to learn to survive, and he’s got to get himself back to the garden.
On this wee walk-about, Arlo runs into a tiny tot named Spot, who appears to have crawled out of “The Croods” movie.
By the look it, Spot’s got to be the male twin of that Neanderthal family’s tiniest girl child, except without the topknot—same fearless growling, rabid temper, and the ability to crawl the 100-yard dash faster than Usain Bolt.
They endure all manner of hardships! Floods, famine, hail, antediluvian scary red cobras, an eccentric cross-eyed triceratops, and a gaggle of purple pterodactyls that belong to a cult and and have a hankering to have Spot for dinner.
Finally, they run into a Pecos Bill-like T. Rex, who’s a cowboy with two child-rexes. Yep. Herd bison, they do. The bison look very real. Pecos Rex … not so much. He’s voiced by Sam Elliott, taking a break from TV commercial voice-overs about trucks made exclusively for cowboys.
Well Arlo matures, loses his fear, travels back home, and drops off Spot with a family of humans they meet on the way, in the film’s most emotionally poignant part.
There’s more than a little “Lord Of The Rings” there—Frodo’s taking leave of his hobbit companions at the Grey Havens. And there’s more than a little of LOTR’s Shire-refrain, that appears to have been borrowed, in the score.
As mentioned, the nature realism is pretty. Nice nature. Nice mountain landscapes, nice forests, streams, rivers, clouds, and flora.
Also as mentioned, it’s the oversimplified cartoon-y fauna running around in all that real-looking flora, that rankles. The kids’ll love it though. “The Good Dinosaur” will, to borrow another lyric from a Woodstock band, “Teach the Children Well.”
What will it teach them? To not be selfish by initially trying to take Spot back to the dino-farm instead of letting him assimilate into early human culture, for one, but ultimately to show that hardship and a tribulation trip through the scary wilderness results in a tempering of character, and the ability to conquer fear. Which is quite a gift, given the level of scariness existing in the world today.
‘The Good Dinosaur’
Director: Peter Sohn
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Steve Zahn, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, John Ratzenberger
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Date: Nov. 25
Rated 3 stars out of 5