Review: THE GOOD DINOSAUR (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Review: THE GOOD DINOSAUR (2015)

It's far from a Pixar classic, but this prehistoric adventure still packed a punch with stunning visuals and heartwarming storyline.

2015 is definitely a banner year for Pixar Animation Studios, as they made history by releasing two animated features for the first time in the same year. Just four months ago, INSIDE OUT opened to an overwhelmingly positive response, which also marked the return of a great Pixar movie after a two year hiatus since MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013). Now hot on the heels of INSIDE OUT, here comes THE GOOD DINOSAUR -- a long-delayed animated feature that finally seen the light of day after years of production issues.


THE GOOD DINOSAUR takes place in an alternate history where the asteroid misses the Earth completely and the supposedly extinction of the dinosaur species still prevails. Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is a hardworking but timid Apatosaurus, who wants to prove himself as useful as his two siblings, Buck (Marcus Scribner) and Libby (Maleah Padilla). But fear keeps holding him back, and Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) wants Arlo to step out of his comfort zone once and for all. Then one day, an enormous flood tragically killed his father while Arlo helps him to locate the feral young boy (Jack Bright), who's been stealing their corn supply. Following his father's death, Arlo subsequently lost and ends up stranded far away from home. However, the same boy becomes his unlikely companion after saving his life at one point. Arlo later named him as Spot and both of them embark on a journey to find a way back home.


Peter Sohn, who previously worked as a Pixar animator, storyboard artist and voice actor such as FINDING NEMO (2003) and TOY STORY 3 (2010), does a good job proving his worth as a first-time feature director in THE GOOD DINOSAUR. Here, Sohn and his team of technical artists has certainly gone all out to deliver some of the most visually spectacular backdrops ever seen in an animated feature. Whether it's the wide open space or the rough terrain that apparently inspired by the American Northwest, it's difficult not to get spellbound by the meticulously-rendered imagery that looks so authentic and lifelike.

Sohn also isn't afraid to step into darker territory, albeit not much, that deals with certain death and stark truth about survival in the wilderness.

Although Meg LeFauve's (INSIDE OUT) screenplay is surprisingly simple and straightforward for a Pixar standard, she manages to inject a poignant yet relatable theme of family and friendship. Speaking of friendship, both Arlo and Spot are likable characters that easy to root for. Not only they are hilarious and lively odd buddies (at one scene, they find themselves hallucinating after consuming some strange fruits on the ground), but also share a touching bond together.

Supporting characters, in the meantime, are also given enough room to shine as well. That includes Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand as Arlo's parent, as well as Steve Zahn as the hungry pterodactyl named Thunderclap. Even the cameo appearances are equally memorable. First, there's Sam Elliott, whose trademark deep growl is put into great use to portray a gruff and grizzled T-Rex named Butch. Then there's Peter Sohn himself, who is particularly amusing as the eccentric styracosaurus Forrest Woodbush.


The scene where a swarm of fireflies brightens up the night while Arlo and his father dancing in the cornfield, is particularly a magical sight to behold.


Apart from its fascinating "what-if" scenario that envisions a world in which dinosaurs are safe from extinction, the movie doesn't offer anything new that we haven't seen before. After all, this is a Pixar movie we are talking about here where filmmakers often pushes the boundaries of creative storytelling technique. But THE GOOD DINOSAUR chooses to play safe by treading familiar ground that borrows thematic elements from several Disney animated classics. For instance, there's a shade of THE LION KING (1994) during the tragic death of Arlo's father, while the scene where Arlo subsequently befriended the feral young boy reminds me of THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967).


Although the overall storytelling isn't as groundbreaking as the more creative INSIDE OUT, THE GOOD DINOSAUR remains a fun, yet emotionally rewarding cinematic experience worthy of a trip to the cinema. Also, don't miss Pixar's 7-minute short SANJAY'S SUPER TEAM prior to the feature presentation of THE GOOD DINOSAUR. Directed by Sanjay Patel, it's about a young Indian boy who is bored with his father's meditation and visualise the Hindu gods as superheroes.

* This review is written courtesy from Walt Disney Malaysia 3D press screening *

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