Peter Sohn’s The Good Dinosaur is the latest film by Pixar, a studio for animated films that once was dependently daring, amusing and heartfelt. It is now but another in an army of animated studios, just one with a slightly better track record over the past few years.
The story is that of Arlo, an Apatosaurus living in an alternate history where the dinosaurs never went extinct. As such, dinosaurs evolved into a more human life, complete with farming, herding and well, humans. The youngest of his family, Arlo finds himself lost and far from home. Arlo’s only companion is a little cave-boy that also caused most of his current plights.
It’s a simple story, but the simplicity is not the innate problem. The issues are plentiful, from the hokey characters Arlo meets along the way, the flailing stabs at humor (a dinosaur that likes to give every creature he meets a terrifying name) to the fact that our central character feels like a laundry list of tics. One of the movie’s most prominent setbacks are its visuals; a mix of pristinely presented, hyper-real environments and cartoonish inhabitants, many of which look like rejects from an Ice Age sequel. The styles, which apparently were a big back-and-forth during production, clash much like the tone of the whole narrative. For a film where very little actually occurs, the mood shifts and wiggles like a first-grader after too many juice-boxes.
It’s only in the truly quiet moments where the dialogue drops out that anything rings as alive. A pair of reflecting scenes that depict how Arlo explains the notion of family to his tiny human buddy is tender in ways the surrounding never achieves. It isn’t the bottom of the Pixar barrel, but honestly, what is worse than Cars 2.