Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Good Dinosaur - not as evolved as most Pixar productions

movie review

The Good Dinosaur

Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A. J. Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, and Steve Zahn
Directed by: Peter Sohn
Tagline: Tiny but tough.

Despite establishing itself as the leader in its field by releasing a string of terrific animated films and dominating the genre for years, Pixar Animation Studios hasn’t been able to retain its position as the best in the business. Of late, the animation powerhouse has been struggling with quality and originality, a situation that became all the more palpable because of the visibly troubled production process of its latest film, The Good Dinosaur.

Originally slated for a 2013 release, The Good Dinosaur was first pushed back to 2014 and then 2015 as the project was revamped, its director and voice cast changed. The finished product has finally made its way to the big screen, and while it doesn’t quite have the magic of the studio’s standout releases from its peak in the 2000s, it still manages to be requisitely touching and charming while delivering the stand lessons about loyalty and courage.

Set in an alternative timeline in which dinosaurs avoided extinction and evolved into intelligent beings, the film tells the story of Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), a timid, young Apatosaurus who is the weakest member of his family and is struggling to make his mark in life, much to the dismay of his parents. But after he is accidently swept away in a river that runs near his family farm, Arlo finds himself facing the unknown dangers of the wild which force him to confront his fears. Aiding him along the way is an unlikely ally, a fearless young caveboy Spot (Jack Bright), who goes from being Arlo’s nemesis to his helpful companion. Together, they must brave the wilderness so that Arlo can make his way back home.

As with all Pixar movies, you can’t help but fall for the easily lovable characters that populate The Good Dinosaur. The proceedings prove to be engaging despite the fact that the way things unfold is quite predictable. While the premise is promising, the plot is fairly simple and it employs familiar thematic elements which bring The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and How to Train Your Dragon to mind. As a result, the movie is amiable, but it never proves to be nearly as creative as you would hope.

Visually, the film is beautifully rendered, and its landscapes are impressively stunning, but there is nothing exceptional about the storytelling. Also, the near-constant peril that pervades this pre-historic adventure might make the film too intense and dark for younger viewers.

On the whole, while The Good Dinosaur doesn’t quite match the lofty standards set by many of its predecessors, the film is visually remarkable and delivers its simple but touching story about overcoming fear poignantly and charmingly.

Rating: 3 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune website - 27th January, 2016 *

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