Release: 21st March 2016
Format: Disney.Pixar 3D Blu-Ray / Blu-Ray / DVD and Digital
The Good Dinosaur sees Arlo catapulted into a vast wilderness, where he struggles to face his fears and survive, all while dealing with the tragic loss of his father. Along the way, Arlo encounters a host of unique personalities who all contribute to his evolution—whether they mean to or not. But the friendship he builds with Spot has the biggest impact. Spot can’t speak, yet he gives Arlo the kind of loyalty and unconditional love that fuels his self-discovery.
It is clear to see that The Good Dinosaur, as is common with Pixar, is an ode to the monomyth. Except this time around, John Lasseter and company want to tip caps at the frontier parable. The Good Dinosaur wants be a prehistoric Huckleberry Finn or a post-cretaceous Wizard of Oz; classical fixtures in the fable of American identity. Yet where these stories are usually populated with a central character you actually care about, The Good Dinosaur serves us Arlo – a selfish, cowardly, whining, goodwill leech of a protagonist. It is one thing to watch your lead follow the tried and tested path of losing yourself so you can find who you are; but when they piss and moan the whole time, you kind of want them to stay gone. He is even annoying in the ‘hero’ moments.
The first thing most people will say to you is that The Good Dinosaur looks gorgeous, and it honestly does. This is by far the most bewitching visual feast the animators at Pixar have ever offered. Never mind Carlsberg…Pixar don’t make holiday destinations, but if they did they would definitely be the most beautiful destinations in the world. Arlo and sidekick Spot travel through lush greens, silky blues and warm pinks as they traverse forest, ice, mountains and rivers. Forget the Avatar / Life of Pi luminescents of the trailer; The Good Dinosaur is at its most gorgeous in its beautifully rendered drops of water, rays of sunlight, mists of cloud and blades of grass. In fact, the landscape here has more about it to love than the characters who inhabit it. Hell, Pixar even devote the closing credits to landscape shots!
As you might expect, there are a number of times when Pixar hit you right in the feels, and with a story so keenly focused on death and survival, you’re gonna need a man sized box of tissues. The name of Pixar usually demands a certain quality in character and comedy. Both are delivered here in minimal quantities, while they instead go straight for the easy road of cute and cuddly, and in one instance, the less trodden road of weird-ass drug trips (David Lynch would be like “whaaaaat!?”) As you might imagine, this is sure to land well with very young children, but less likely to impress more mature bambinos. Spot is a certified hit, as is the Pet Collector – a half-baked Styracosaurus who has a series of pets that, among other things, are there to help eat bugs and crush his unrealistic dreams. Bonus points for taking the high road and making the T-Rex good guys (Sam Elliott = perfect casting), and kudos for managing to make driftwood heartfelt…yes you read that right. The only alarming moment in the film is when
– – – Soiler Alert – – – – – –
Arlo, a pre-teen, nonchalantly murders a group of Pterosaurs. He literally goes from boy on the verge of self discovery to rampant serial killer in the setting of a sun. Some would class that as a mental breakdown.
Disney just be loving their murdering.
Film Grade: B-
Disney must be feeling generous with The Good Dinosaur, because it comes loaded with the sort of features they normally hoard for 3D purchases only.
Sanjay’s Super Team is so much fun. It has the essence of The Powerpuff Girls, but somehow feels unique. Yes the central themes are about as heavy handed as the Hulk, but I’d watch a feature film of this over most of Marvel’s cinematic offerings any day.
If you have one of those smart-arse kids that no one likes, then give them some more ammunition for isolation with True Lies About Dinosaurs. It states obvious facts such as “we doubt dinosaurs spoke English”, and takes time to debunk any fun the film’s central concept may hold.
If you’ve seen special features for Monster’s University, then you will be familiar with the team building exercises that Pixar hold on each film. This time around Recyclosaurus shows how the various departments used junk to build dinosaurs. The winners are absolutely amazing.
The blu-ray’s true worth comes with The Filmmakers’ Journey, Every Part Of The Dinosaur and Following The T-Rex Trail. These are three features which take a reasonably in-depth look at the film’s development, and earnestly explore director Peter Sohn’s nervous venture into filmmaking. The ‘Brain Trust’ are noticeably absent, which makes you wonder; was The Good Dinosaur a black sheep?
The animatic Deleted Scenes show just how integral the animators were in developing some of the film’s finer moments, and the Audio Commentary is great fun to listen to.
For the super bored there are a collection of ‘moments’ called Dino Bites, and the mandatory Trailers. Then a weird advert / deleted scene / concept reel called Hide And Seek.
Special Features Grade: B
As a directorial debut, The Good Dinosaur is a solid effort from Pixar alumnus Peter Sohn. It has sweetness to spare, but that is largely to the emotive themes and Spot’s adorable little face. And with a worthwhile body of extras to accompany it, The Good Dinosaur blu-ray deserves your attention.