The Good Dinosaur, Pixar’s second film this year following the exceptional Inside Out, has had several poor reviews. I think that is rather unfair, since despite the film’s undoubted flaws, it definitely has its heart in the right place. One could do far worse for a family trip to the cinema.
Set in a parallel universe where the asteroid that supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs missed the Earth, the plot follows young Arlo, an Apatosaurus who forms an unlikely bond with a human child whilst trying to find his way home to his family. Essentially a clever twist on the boy-and-his-dog story (with the human as the “dog”), The Good Dinosaur has a relatively simple plot that nonetheless feels uneven due to the episodic nature of the journey and a slightly stop-start set-up which bears the fingerprints of script tinkering (perhaps to be expected given the troubled production history).
That said, the film feels smoother towards the end, and builds to a satisfyingly emotional finale. Also on the plus side, the visuals are astonishing, as one expects from Pixar. Director Peter Sohn has rendered some staggeringly beautiful landscapes which really benefit from being seen on a big screen. The vocal work is good (from the likes of Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand) and composers Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna contribute a very fine score.
Themes of overcoming fear and grief are also effectively explored, and all things considered, The Good Dinosaur has more in its favour than against it. Certainly my own children enjoyed it very much, finding it funny, surreal, exciting and touching in equal measure, despite the undoubted script problems. It isn’t in the same league as the outstanding Inside Out, but it is much better than other critics are saying.