“The Good Dinosaur” What A Misleading Title….

By Scott Kurland
Film: The Good Dinosaur
Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, Anna Paquin, AJ Buckley, and Sam Elliot
Rated PG (Really? Wow this is a dark PG)
Director: Peter Sohn

As a filmmaker there’s two thing you never want to face. The first being bad reviews, which lead to poor box office numbers. That in turn leads to a bad film. The second obstacle is a film delay. The film delay is like the kiss of death; honestly it might be worse then bad reviews and no box office numbers. A film delay lets an audience know that a studio had no faith in the film and also the possibility that the original film was scrapped completely. If the film was scrapped completely the delayed film that got released might not even be the film you were intended to see. This week’s film “The Good Dinosaur” is Disney/Pixar’s long delayed and troubled production finally getting released this week. Let’s find out if this film stacks up with Pixar’s other film “Inside Out”, shall we?

“The Good Dinosaur” opens with an asteroid headed towards Earth, yes the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. However, the flying space rock misses earth and the Dinosaurs remain alive and unharmed. We then pan forward 65 million years to see that Dinosaurs are still alive and have become farmers. The one farming family we focus on in particular consists of a Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) and Momma (Frances McDormand). They have three children Buck (Marcus Scrubner) , Libby (Maleh Nipay-Padilla), and Arlo (Raymond Ochoa). Arlo is the runt of the litter and trying to make his family proud. However, Arlo is scared of everything and is ruining the family farm. When Arlo is seperated from his family while trying to exterminate a “critter” named Spot (Jack Bright), he is alone for the first time in his life. Arlo must face his fears and explore the world to get back home. He encounters a clan of psychotic Pterodactyls, carnivorous Raptors, and a kind family of Tyrannosaur Rex. Will this journey make him a better Dinosaur? Or is he just to naive?

This film made me furious. I really wanted to like it, I did, but I had so many problems with “The Good Dinosaur.” First off, this movie is incredibly dark. It's so bleak that even “The Land Before Time” would say "take a chill pill". I was terrified by the clan of Pterodactyls led by Steve Zahn. They appear as helpful saviors, but then you realize that they’re really a religious cult. They believe that the holy storm has saved them to torture critters, which includes Arlo’s Spot a five year old boy.  There's a very large reglious entitlement undertone to their back story, and it's no place for a children's film. Yet, that is small potatoes when you realize what the original plot of the film is. Arlo’s Poppa wants him to kill the critter for eating their harvest. That’s right the plot is about Arlo attempting to murder a little boy. Of course he learns to love the critter, but this film is way too graphic. I gagged three times when viewing this film, and one of those images include a bug's head being bit off and eaten by Spot. I know Pixar has always been ahead of the curve, but they might want to take a step back and reinvent the wheel here..

The other problem I had pertains to script revisions. The original plot. I should say the plot before the film’s delay had to do with Dinosaurs living amongst humans in present day. This entire movie does not feel like a present day film. If I'm being perfectly honest here everything looks like Dreamworks’ “The Croods”; even the design of Spot is to similar to “The Croods”. I will say the one reason you’d even want to see this film is the background animation. The backgrounds look incredibly life like. They're really beautiful up their on the screen, even if the dinosaurs look like characters out of a 1970s Hanna Barbera cartoon. 

If we focus primarily on the screenplay we find this out; the story is right out of  “City Slickers”. I mean Pixar is guilty of this in the past with some of their films. “A Bug’s Life” is “Three Amigos", “Cars” stole the plot of “Doc Hollywood”, and now “The Good Dinosaur” is “City Slickers”. Arlo even has a conversation with a cattle rustler about death and fear, just like Billy Crystal had with Jack Palance. Also the entire film is about Arlo learning to find his happiness. "City Slickers" is about Billy Crystal learning to find his smile, it's "City Slickers" with Dinosaurs and no Bruno Kirby. I don’t understand how Meg LeFauve can go from writing a brilliant script like “Inside Out” to writing this western comedy knock off. She may have been busy writing “Inside Out” and couldn’t give her full attention to this script. It’s a shame because the original idea was so unique.

I will say the other thing "The Good Dinosaur" got right was the voice casting. Jeffrey Wright and Sam Elliott both add gravity and heart to their characters. You really believe that these two different fathers both have the same amount of love and life lessons to teach their children. I do think Frances McDormand's talents were wasted as Momma, she doesn't have much to do here; but come on it's Frances McDormand you have to use her no matter what. The rest of the voice actors are pretty much well cast, but that 's about it for excellence in this film.

“The Good Dinosaur” isn’t  Pixar’s best film, it’s not their worst either. However, unlike “Inside Out” this film is way too adult and dark for children. I was in a theater where two five year old boys had to be removed because they were terrified of the graphic content. Do yourself a favor and rent “Inside Out” or any of Pixar’s earlier films, and you can skip “The Good Dinosaur”.

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