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The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/23/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/25/2016
As you no doubt know, there are those who think that Pixar can do no wrong. I am not one of those people. Like many, I was fascinated when their first films were introduced, but as the medium of computer generated movies has grown and more companies have jumped into the mix, I feel that Pixar has remained stagnant, despite the fact that their movies continue to be hits and garner awards. However, when I look at a list of their output,Toy Story 3 was the last film that I enjoyed and you've got to go back 15 years to find an entry which truly blew me away. Yet, as a film lover (and because one of my daughter's loves the art of animated films), I continue to give Pixar films a chance. That may change after The Good Dinosaur.
The Good Dinosaur opens with a prologue with wordlessly puts forth this premise: What if the meteorite which theoretically lead to the decline of the dinosaurs missed Earth? Millions of years later, dinosaurs have evolved to the point that they can oversee farms (?!). Young Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is born into a farming family. His much more able-bodied siblings are giving tasks helping their father (voiced by Jeffrey Wright), while Arlo is left to tend to the dino-chickens (?!). One day, Arlo's father takes him on a trek to try and make the boy more confident. But, after a storm-fed flood, Arlo finds himself all alone in the wilderness and far from home. He encounters a young humanoid, whom he dubs Spot (voiced by Jack Bright). This creature can only communicate through grunts and gestures, but Arlo is able to explain that he's trying to find his family. Together, this unlikely pair will have to survive rough terrain and predators in order to reach their goal.
Regular visitors to this site know that I always try to say something positive about the movies which I review. No matter how much of a challenge that may be. The basic premise of The Good Dinosaur is a very sound one. What if the dinosaurs had not been wiped out? What would the world have looked like? However, after that notion, it appears that the writers ran out of gas, as the movie becomes bizarre, silly, and incredibly unoriginal following this introduction.
Now, I get that The Good Dinosaur is a cartoon, but the first act stretches credibility beyond the breaking point. The whole "dinosaurs farming" thing is simply ludicrous. We see that they use their heads for plowing and their mouths for irrigation, but that's where the creativity ends. We're never told how things like fences were built or nets were made. And, this is one of those stories where some animals are anthropomorphic and some aren't. Why can the dinosaurs talk, but the dino-chickens and the buffalo can't? These may seem like small things, but they really had me on the ropes during the first act.
From there, things only get worse, as The Good Dinosaur turns into every movie ever made. The scene with Arlo and his father in the flood is basically taken directly from The Lion King. Following this, the movie stumbles into the "Oh no, me and my traveling companion have to get back home." plot. The people at Pixar clearly love this idea, as we've seen it in Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Inside Out. Well, they've recycled it yet again for The Good Dinosaur. And this means, that we get the usual amount of obstacles and other characters which Arlo and Spot run into as they try to get back home.
What's the bottom line here? For years, critics and audiences alike have been praising Pixar for their original ideas, while being dazzled by the animation. I think that The Good Dinosaur has finally opened those eyes to show that Pixar doesn't always bask in originality. (Go back and really look at The Incredibles. There isn't a single original idea there.) The Good Dinosaur opens with a series of ludicrous ideas which then morphs into a series of cliches, one after another. The result is a movie which is dreadfully boring to the fact that most audiences will know exactly what is going to happen next. Some parents have complained that the movie is too dark and sad. Again, the things portrayed here have been in other movies, movies that the kids have most likely seen. Even the usually reliable Pixar animation is a let-down here. The backgrounds and landscapes are photo-realistic and breath-taking. But, the characters, especially Arlo, are incredibly cartoony, and don't look like real dinosaurs. (Spot looks like Zac Efron.) The Good Dinosaur is not just bad for a Pixar film, it's bad period and shows that the house that Woody and Buzz built needs to work to catch up with the other CG animation houses.
The Good Dinosaur never explained if the dinosaurs were organic farmers on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. With the realistic look of the backgrounds, we feel that we can step into the picture given the clarity and the depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very active track, as it features very detailed stereo and surround effects. These effects draw our attention to sounds coming from off-screen, and we are treated to distinct sounds from the rear speakers. The subwoofer effects are impressive as well, as the flood and the dinosaur footsteps shake the walls.
The Good Dinosaur Blu-ray Disc contains a large selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Peter Sohn, Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann, Supervising Animator Michael Venturini, and Director of Photography Sharon Calahan. "Sanjay's Super Team" (7 minutes) is the Pixar short which ran before The Good Dinosaur in theaters. "True Lies About Dinosaurs" (2 minutes) examines the "liberties" which the writers took with their portrayal of dinosaurs. "Recyclosaurus" (6 minutes) shows us the great time which Pixar employees have playing games. "The Filmmakers' Journey" (8 minutes) contains comments from the creative team behind the film who discuss their approach to the material and who often mention the short amount of time which they had to make the movie. (They also mention the change in direction in the movie, but they don't elaborate on this.) "Every Part of the Dinosaur" (6 minutes) examines the fine detail which goes into creating each movement of the characters. "Following the T-Rex Trail" (7 minutes) looks at how an actual family of ranchers was utilized to design the T-Rex family seen in the film. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 11 minutes, including an introduction from Sohn. These are done in early test format. "Dino Bites" (4 minutes) is simply a series of very brief interstitials showing the characters doing funny things. "Hide and Seek" (1 minute) plays a like a deleted scene. Finally we get three TRAILERS for the film, one American, one Russian, and one German.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long