HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Good Dinosaur
HTS Overall Score:91
Pixar has set the bar so ridiculously high for animated films that when a “good” movie comes out it seems to just pale in comparison. Movies like “Wall-E”, “Toy Story 2”, “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles” are by and large so superior that 99.9% of animated films, even Disney films that “The Good Dinosaur” seems like a pile of garbage. That is until you stand back and realize, “wait, this is actually a good movie”, it just isn’t in the same league as the above mentioned films. It’s a natural thing. You can only climb SO high before that next branch is just so out of reach that you’re naturally disappointed by this entry not besting the one before it. “The Good Dinosaur” falls into this category. An entertaining and fun little movie, it just feels like the red headed step child after living through decades of peak performance Pixar.
What happens if that giant asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs actually MISSED the Earth? Well, in case it did we now go into an alternate form of history. The dinosaurs have survived that near miss and now after a million years they have formed a sort of primitive society. They can grow crops on a farm, talk to each other and interact much like we did thousands of years ago. Strangely enough, humans haven’t evolved past the state of basic Neanderthals, but hey. Some suspension of disbelief has to be employed when dealing with talking dinosaurs. Young Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is the baby of a family of Apatosaurus’s who are living as farmers in this brave new world. While every one of his siblings are bigger and stronger than he is, Arlo is stuck being the runt of the family. Always a bit skittish he has trouble with fear and thusly is kind of the laughing stock of said siblings. Mama and Poppa (Francis McDormand and Jeffrey Wright respectively) know that their son has greatness in him, but they just can’t seem to extract it from the young one.
When the family food stores are being raided by a critter, Poppa tries to give Arlo some responsibility by tasking him with trapping the beast and ridding their family of a pest. This all is well and good, but when Arlo is confronted with a young human child, he can’t wrestle up enough nerve to do the deed. Trying so very hard to put some gumption in his boy, an angry Poppa forces Arlo into chasing down this critter, ending in utter disaster as he killed by a raging flooded river leaving Arlo and the rest of his family to struggle on without him. Devastated by his father’s death, Arlo blames the human child for his father’s absence. When the young child comes back for more stolen food stores, Arlo unleashes his rage upon the young boy and ends up catching the both of them in the river next to their farm. Washed down stream and lost out in the open, Arlo and the child (given the pet name of “spot”) have to learn to work together to find their way back home. Along the way they come across dangerous enemies, including snakes, deadly Pterodactyls and a friendly group of Texas sounding T-rex’s and their herd of wild buffalo.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=65274[/img]The world of “The Good Dinosaur” is a bit topsy turvy in comparison to what we view as history. The dinosaurs can speak and in all reality are no different than humans in many ways. The humans (mainly spot) are animalistic in nature and the little boy tends to use his instinctual prey drives rather than logic and reasoning (although he is a bit more emotive than one would expect from a Neanderthal). He runs around on the ground like a dog, dirty, ragged, unkempt and like a feral animal most of the time. The film uses this nature to have him be the “pet” of Arlo, acting much like a semi civilized dog or cat that hasn’t lived its whole life in captivity. The same goes for the T-rex’s herding buffalo. The old codger is voiced by Sam Elliott and it adds a fun little cowboy dynamic to the film. Especially considering how ridiculous (and fun) the notion of T-rex’s getting along with other dinosaurs and actually herding their own meat (a little inside joke from the producers actually). It’s these little nuances that adds a whole other dimension to an otherwise formulaic film.
“The Good Dinosaur” is actually one of the more formulaic films of the Pixar lineup. It’s basically been done a million times, and by a whole host of studios and film makers. Young hero has to overcome his fears and get back home before it’s too late. In many ways it feels like it borrows from “The Land Before Time”, especially with the whole dinosaur comparison. In other way’s it’s purely Pixar. Such as the creation of loveable characters and even more loveable sidekicks. Something that Disney and Pixar are almost hailed as legends for doing. I like the movie a lot, but it just doesn’t rise to the level of awe and inspired film making that many previous Pixar films ascribe to. I knew from the first few trailers and lack of excessive marketing that this one was not going to be top tier Pixar, but that’s not a horrible thing. No matter what, it seems like the crew cannot turn in a BAD movie, even if it’s not as revolutionary as others they have done in the past.
Rated PG for peril, action and thematic elements
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=65282[/img]Good grief! “The Good Dinosaur” doesn’t just have a great looking 1080 encode, it’s a FLAWLES encode! The movie is almost an excuse for the studio to just show off with cutting edge digital animation that is about as pure and unadulterated as you can possibly get. The lush textures and shades of green dominate the film, even though there is tons of blues, dusty browns, oranges and reds to add a sense of diversity to the green levels of the film. Just watch Arlo’s skin after his encounter with the T-rex family. The scarring on his skin, with mottled bits of red and brown to make his wounds seem real. Especially combined with a cartoonish sense of unreality with the dinosaur designs and the intimate details that present on screen. It is a strangely homogenous combining of styles that is natural and simply beautiful. Black levels never disappoint and I didn’t see a speck of video artifacting or compression issues to mar this wonderful looking picture.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=65290[/img]The 7.1 DTS-HD MA track doesn’t lag too far behind either. The track is warm and inviting, with a heavy layering of depth that just adds to the immersion level of the whole film’s technical specs. The dialog is never under doubt as being less than magnificent, and the blending of vocals with effects is done with an incredibly rich dynamic range. The surround channels are given a whole host of activity, ranging from the bawking of chickens to the rumbling and roaring of an entire herd or buffalo. Or the raging rushing of water and the crashing of lightning during an incredibly pre-historic thunder storm. The LFE is hard hitting and can be wildly aggressive. Dinosaur footsteps sound impressively weighty and the cracking of thunder adds some ferocity to the track. It isn’t a powerhouse of bass, as I noticed certain sound effects didn’t have that thick, throaty feeling that many Pixar movies have. It’s not wildly noticeable unless you’re used to the awe inspiring levels of bass like in “Wall-E” or “Cars” or “The Incredibles”.
• Sanjay's Super Team
• True Lies About Dinosaurs
• The Filmmakers' Journey
• Every Part of the Dinosaur
• Following the T-Rex Trail
• Deleted Scenes
• Feature Length Commentary
• Dino Bites
• Hide and Seek
Pixar is one of the last studios that really put a lot of effort into their extras. Years ago it was common to find 11+ hours of extras on a DVD, and then it moved to just a few less and nowadays it’s not uncommon to see less than 30 minutes. Pixar has maintained a high standard of always putting more extras than any other studio out their (on average) and this release is no difference. While it’s still less than days of yesteryear, there are some very solid extras on disc for “The Good Dinosaur”. Several o them are just a few minutes each, like “True Lies About Dinosaurs” or Hide and Seek”, but there’s a solid array of 6-8 minutes extras that are full of little fun tidbits, such as “Deleted Scenes” and “Following the T-Rex Trail”. The big one comes in the form of a full length audio commentary that shows off Director Peter Sohn, Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann and Animation Supervisor Mike Venture along with several other key supervisors talking about the particulars of the films creation. It’s engaging and enlightening for the adults, while still not being TOO heady for some of the younger ones.
This may not be the bastion of creativity and innovation that Pixar is known for, but “The Good Dinosaur” is well stocked with fun characters and great humor. “The Land Before Time” comparisons are an interesting bit of introspection as I was a child who grew up with the former well before Pixar got into the “millions of years ago” concept. The positive message and emotional core are what set Pixar apart from the rest of the flock, and they do so with incredible panache. Arlo is fantastic and Spot is even more so, allowing kids and adults alike to enjoy this family film. Audio and video are off the charts, and Pixar never really skimps on the extras like so many other studios do. Definitely recommended.
Starring: Francis McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Maleah Nipay-Padilla
Directed by: Peter Sohn
Written by: Bob Peterson
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HR 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Runtime: 94 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 23rd 2016
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