Amongst those of us who are unhealthily interested in Pixar, it is well-known that they stand by the policy of making movies that are targeted at any particular audience. Other than the cinematic pollution caused by the Cars franchise, which might as well have had “available at Toys R Us” constantly displayed in the bottom-right corner of the screen, Pixar has always produced unhinged masterpieces of escapism and heart that have kept lazy critics regurgitating the same boring sentence “will entertain both kids and adults alike” to get quoted on the DVD cover for the past twenty years: proof that this formula works. However, I would have to make an exception for their latest offering, The Good Dinosaur.
Appearance-wise, kid’s cartoons that live in a bizarrely photo-realistic environment. Story-wise, brutal life teachings for a young Apatosaurus. Leaving you with the effect of a tamer Watership Down, the edited highlights include Pterodactyls eating a ‘cutenised’ mouse on-screen, several cases of characters bleeding, a prolonged near-drowning experience and a blunt adaptation of the classic Mufusa-Simba scenario. Now, I love it when Pixar raise things to the ‘realistically cruel’ bar to get the emotional banks fuelled. However, the disappointingly basic ‘little dinosaur gets lost, meets a dog-like caveboy: trouble ensues’ narrative often doesn’t really call for such upsetting gut-punches. It often seems that, during the production problems that had this film delayed by a year, Pixar tried to rework a kid-centric movie of a more Dreamworks-type calibre with sudden off-tone assaults of “we better kill something, now.” It was a valiant attempt, but it doesn’t quite glue together.
The marketing of Good Dinosaur didn’t help either. With Up, Toy Story 3 and Inside Out, the emotional stakes were advertised clearly for the audience was expecting: though, the opening of Up was a necessary tear vacuum. With Good Dinosaur, all the advertising presented was Arlo the lost dinosaur with a few other fun characters that resemble the contents of Harry’s Bucket*. Not “2-4 dead, with many more injured.” I don’t mean to be the modern Mary Whitehouse, all I mean is that the appropriate age may be more around 7+, as opposed to the more 3+ish advertised.
However! The film is still worth seeing just on the basis of the chemistry developed between Arlo and the speechless dog-human. It’s just the story they inhabit that lacks the quality of Pixar’s greater offerings: particularly in a year where Inside Out pushed Pixar into competing against themselves.
craps given: 3/5
*no childhood should be completed without your parents/guardian reading you Harry’s Bucket Full of Dinosaurs.