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Review: The Good Dinosaur

It’s only towards the end of the film that it is apparent how subversive Peter Sohn’s The Good Dinosaur has been.

Sure, on the surface, it appears to be a “boy and his dog” survival story, only that the boy is a dinosaur, an eleven-year-old apatosaurus named Arlo, (future-star-in-the-making Raymond Ochoa) and the dog is a human, who will come to be named Spot (Jack Bright, who mainly growls throughout).

The subversion takes the form of a pterodactyl named Thunderclap (Steve Zahn), who attempts to “follow the storm”, giving off cultish vibes. There is also a scene that we cannot believe made it through, in which Arlo and Spot gnaw on some fermented fruit, and experience…well, there’s no way around it, a trip. In addition, a section with a strange shaman-like Forrest Woodbrush (Peter Sohn), a styracosaurus who gets off some of the best lines of the film, and participates in a very bizarre naming ceremony with Arlo. In fact, the character seemed to resemble a comedian playing it perfectly straight. Not sure how children will respond to the scene, but it was hilarious for adults.

The sequences where a family of Tyrannosaurus Rexes  (Sam Eliott, Anna Paquin and A.J. Buckley) are reimagined as ranchers (and surprisingly not as villains), perhaps speaks to the film’s attempt to put a modern spin on the frontier picture. And spin it does, as the animation and camerawork rivals many a non-animated Hollywood film in scope and capture. In short, The Good Dinosaur looks and feels incredible.

Sadly, the journey home storyline just does not seem to capture the same effect, as the interplay between Arlo and Spot, save for perhaps one touching moment is eminently flat in a certain way, perhaps because Arlo’s parents in particular, voiced by France’s McDormand and Jeffrey Wright, go missing for much of the film.

The Good Dinosaur is just that, good, and it certainly didn’t need to settle. Though a few segments suggest that if the film was able to cake together as a cohesive whole, then it may have gone from Good to Great.

[star v=35]