Cartoon Brew is reporting that Pixar’s latest film “The Good Dinosaur” is underperforming at the box office. I am sorry to read that. I think it’s a very good film, and totally worth seeing on the big screen.
The story takes place in the western half of what we know as the north American continent. The western location was chosen to work with the “old west” story line of dinosaurs acting as farmers and ranchers. Arlo, the main dinosaur, is one of three children in a family of herbivorous dinosaurs who cultivate corn to live on. Arlo gets separated from his family, and begins a journey through the vast open spaces. Some people are having difficulty with the nearly photorealistic backgrounds clashing with the cartoony characters. That didn’t bother me at all. I found it wonderful to look at. Huge sweeping vistas, volumetric clouds, and amazing water effects.
Western moves are also known for their patient tempo. This isn’t the hustle and bustle of the city. The directors obviously studied the timing of western films. There are lingering shots, and characters who take their time. They didn’t load the film up with tons of characters either. Other dinosaurs suggested cattle rustlers, indians, or false preachers. They probably had only a fraction of the characters found in Cars 2. That made their presence more valuable, less disposable. Walking in the city is a constant stream of faces, most of whom you avoid. This movie is like walking on a trail and meeting people along the way. It’s easy to say hello. I found that very refreshing, and I appreciate Pixar taking the chance to deliver something different.
I also had quite a few hearty laughs along the way. The human child had no language, so all of his performance was pure action. He was naturally funny. He rarely smiled, which is significant. The serious facial expression suggests he is honestly engaged in the situation. Doing something funny, with a serious intent only makes it funnier. Contrast that with the continuously smirking fox shown in the Zootopia trailer. He appears to take nothing seriously. The boy, as well as the rest of the animal cast, are motivated by the simple need to survive. It couldn’t be easier to understand, so there is very little exposition needed. It is life at it’s most basic, which is the easiest situation for characters to be believable. They want to eat, and not get eaten. When trying to get food, the action was played for laughs. When avoiding predators, it could get serious with big action.
There are also moments of heavy emotion. As this is the old west, death is presented as a part of reality. The losses make it feels more dangerous than most animated films do. Reviewers who suggest this movie is too kid or family oriented seem to have overlooked that.
I was glad I saw the film in 3D. I might even go back a second time. Take the opportunity to see it big while you can.