Less than an hour into Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur”, I began thinking about the studio’s 15 other animated movies (never a good thing). Not all of them are outstanding (“WALL-E” being the most overrated), but given the choice, I would watch any of them again in favor of a second viewing of “The Good Dinosaur”, which is clearly the studio’s worst film to date.
It’s no wonder Pixar had years of problems trying to get this movie made. It was originally supposed to be their 2014 film, instead becoming their quietly-promoted second 2015 feature following the much more ambitious “Inside Out”. Much like “Newt”, Pixar’s highly-publicized failed project about amphibians falling in love, “The Good Dinosaur” should’ve been scrapped, or rather, put into extinction. And it’s too bad, because the initial premise, which is somewhat unique, poses the question: What if the meteor that killed all the dinosaurs missed the Earth instead?
We flash-forward millions of years and dino Arlo is born. He’s got a Mama, Papa and two active and competitive siblings. Arlo is not athletic or courageous. And yes, all the dinosaurs in “The Good Dinosaur” speak English, but the few humans in the story do not – kind of a reversal of “The Flintstones”. And this should quiet all those who have problems with the talking vehicles in “Cars”.
The first half-hour of “Good Dino“ (aka “Family Time”) is surprisingly flat, emotionless and awkward. Once again Disney and Pixar Executive Producer John Lasseter follows the studio’s mantra: “You MUST kill-off a character early to move the plot forward!” Just like in nearly every other Pixar and Mouse House animated movie this Century, someone dies early on in “The Good Dinosaur” and Arlo must prove his worth as he battles enemies and the elements trying to make it back home to his family with the help of a new friend, a young cave boy.
This story and script are on the “Disney Junior” TV series level. The writing is basic and rarely provides any genuine interest. There’s only one scene – midway through the film – which actually feels like it was created by a Pixar team, along with the absolutely gorgeous animation and stunningly realistic nature scenery. The rest – from the bland dialogue, to the wacky supporting characters, to the overly-sentimental tone – could have been produced anywhere. The only other “Good” element of “The Good Dinosaur” is Sam Elliot’s voice-work as a T-rex with a nasty scar and tall tales of his adventures battling outlaws. Yes, this film becomes a Western at one point.
There’s a scene in which young Arlo and his cave boy pal eat some “funny” berries and get “high”, complete with psychedelic music and visuals, taking them from the Stone Age to the “Stoned” Age. You’ve got to wonder if those same berries were being passed around during the production meetings of this movie.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Good Dinosaur” gets a C.
Running Time: 93 min.