20 years ago, Pixar redefined animation with 'Toy Story'. They created the first-ever feature-length CG film, when the technology was still in its infancy. It not only put them on the map, but at the top of the pyramid for animated movies. Since then, we've screamed at 'Monsters, Inc.', just kept swimming with 'Finding Nemo', had a tear brought to our eye with 'Wall-E', and psychoanalysed ourselves with 'Inside Out'. Their latest film 'The Good Dinosaur' saunters into Australian cinemas this Boxing Day - but how does it compare to the rest of Pixar's illustrious catalogue?
Millions of years ago, an asteroid is hurtling towards earth. By some chance of fate, it scrapes by, saving the dinosaurs from extinction. They develop their own society, and eventually grow crops on farms - like that of Henry (Jeffrey Wright) and Ida (Frances McDormand). They have three children - the youngest, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), is scrawny and afraid of his own shadow. After an unfortunate incident, Arlo is separated from his family, and must learn to survive and find his way home, with the help of a feral little Neanderthal boy named Spot (Jack Bright).
SWITCH: 'THE GOOD DINOSAUR' TRAILER 3
So it's a little 'Land Before Time' meets 'Milo And Otis', between the talking dinosaurs and the long journey home. They were both fantastic films - why wouldn't this work? The issue with 'The Good Dinosaur' is that it's simply okay. We've come to expect something exceptional from Pixar, but what we have here is purely mediocre. Rather than being cute, the animation of Arlo is awkward and at times borders on frustrating. There's no real moral to the story; even "there's no place like home" or "overcoming fear" aren't all that applicable as the story unwinds. Yet more than anything, it's missing the heart which brings Pixar films to life - that undefinable element that makes you adore the characters and feel as though you're in the story with them.
The vocal cast all do well with somewhat clunky dialogue, though with so much of this film on the shoulders of Raymond Ochoa's Arlo, his somewhat dopey American accent does start to grate through those lengthy solo scenes. The undeniable highlight of the film is Spot: a dinosaur keeping a human that behaves like a dog as a pet opens up so many humorous possibilities, and brings the only brightness to a relatively dark film.
We've come to expect something exceptional from Pixar, but what we have here is purely mediocre.
What irked me the most, however, was the style of animation. The scenery is so beautiful and incredibly detailed and realistic. However, essentially superimposed over that, you have these extremely cartoonish dinosaurs designed with primary colours and plasticine textures. It's disappointing a middle ground between the two styles couldn't be found, and Pixar couldn't overcome the idea the main character had to be cute, cuddly and easily marketable.
'The Good Dinosaur' isn't a bad film, not by a long shot. But from a company whose work has been held to the highest standard, this just doesn't cut it. Pixar defined themselves by creating films which appealed to kids and adults alike. It may just be that 'The Good Dinosuar' is the the first of their films that entertains the kids only.