The Bock’s Office: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ — Is Pixar’s creativity extinct?
If you want to see a human interact with species that were gone ages ago, just check out… No, wait, “Ice Age” already did that.
Well, if you want a movie about a father-son relationship… Whoops, “Finding Nemo.”
Still, if you want to see Pixar and Disney create some cool prehistoric characters… Oh, yeah, “Toy Story.”
Remind me, why did we need “The Good Dinosaur?”
If you go…
“The Good Dinosaur,” rated ?
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 100 minutes
Starring the voices of: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott and Anna Paquin
Millions of years ago, the fateful asteroid that would have changed the Earth forever didn’t hit its target, and as a result dinosaurs remain in the world.
Among them are an apatosaurus family, headed by parents Henry and Ida (voices of Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand) with kids Libby and Buck (Maleah Padilla, Marcus Scribner), all of whom are hard workers on the farming tract where they live.
Then there’s Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), the runt of the litter — puny, whiny and terrified of virtually everything. His father’s attempts to bolster his confidence have little effect, but when Henry is suddenly killed in an accident, Arlo is determined to get over his fear and be there when his family needs him most.
That newfound resolve is heavily tested when he gets lost in the wilderness with an odd little critter (Jack Bright) with soft pink skin and brown fur on top of its head that doesn’t seem to be daunted by anything and could help him get back home.
Young voice artist Ochoa is fine as the scrawniest dino you’ve ever seen, desperate to prove himself to those he loves, but that’s kind of tough to do when you’re so much of a chicken that you get bullied by actual chickens.
Bright never says a full word but provides lots of enthusiastic grunts and howls as the pint-sized human — a term that’s never mentioned — that serves as a protector for his much larger companion. And, what do you call a feral animal the likes of which you’ve never seen?
Spot, of course.
Steve Zahn is welcome as ever as the voice of a deranged pterodactyl named Thunderclap who keeps popping up where he’s not wanted as a scavenger, but it’s Sam Elliott as a gruff and grizzled but kindly tyrannosaurus named Butch who takes this in a new direction when he and his bickering kids (AJ Buckley, Anna Paquin) take Arlo and his pet under their teeny arms to gain some fortitude by warding off a group of rustlers — velociraptors — from their herd of longhorns, which you’ll probably recognize as bison.
Not often T. Rex is portrayed this positively, but everyone deserves a chance to look good. Even bloodthirsty carnivores…
The idea of dinosaurs as farmers and ranchers gives us shades of a Western in this “What if?” scenario that proposes an alternate timeline of the universe. Now, if Pixar had developed that further, they might have had something, but after the step forward that came with “Inside Out,” this feels like two big, apatosaurus-sized footfalls backward.
Besides directly ripping off iconic moments from “The Land Before Time,” the dynamic between Arlo and Spot is almost identical, albeit the reverse, to Hiccup and Toothless in “How to Train Your Dragon.” Also, Spot really, really looks like he should be hanging out with the cave clan of “The Croods.”
By the way, Sinclair, no one would blame you for pursuing legal action for borrowing your company logo.
It used to be Pixar was the unquestioned innovator of cutting-edge animation, but if this is what comes from having two movies released from the studio in the same year, we’d rather they took their time.
The few instances where “The Good Dinosaur” creates its own unique story with flashes of movie magic — fireflies fix almost everything — make it just pleasant enough to be worthy of the Pixar seal of approval. Still, a tale of courage means a lot more coming from people willing to take chances rather than fall back on the familiar elements of films that have already made their mark.
And, no, a pair of tyrannosaurs fighting over their safe space is not the kind of update we need.
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