Friday, November 20, 2015

The Good Dinosaur ★★1/2

Image result for The good dinosaur film stills

    To say that Disney's Pixar has succumbed to somewhat of a rapacious state of mind with its releasing of "The Good Dinosaur," the production company's latest project to go from the figurative drawing board to big screen stardom, would be quite the understatement, and it would be a pronouncement destined for the euphemistic hall of fame. Animator turned filmmaker Peter Sohn's directorial debut is about as derivative as it gets when it comes to the film's lily-livered and etiolated subject matter, and it is in desperate need of that distinctive and treasured Pixar charm.

    Perhaps Peter Sohn is just a victim of what I like to call subconscious rehashing—at least, that would explain the picture's rather recycled temperament.

    Act I: Our story begins with a puzzling proposition. What if the dinosaurs were able to avoid extinction and clamber their way to the top of the evolutionary chain? (As silly as that sounds, the film reminds us early on of life's fragile and fickle nature, and this could hypothetically lead to sudden mass extinctions or, in this case, the avoidance of such events.) And what is the answer to this unthinkable question? According to the predictive minds at Pixar, these prehistoric animals would become, well, like us. (Many of the picture's more mature dinos have taken on professions such as farming and herding, which, of course, may have more to do with survival than any actual sense of purpose.)

    Act II: Enter Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a caricature of cowardice and clumsiness and the runt of a litter of three. Not only is young Arlo completely incompetent when it comes to the family business (agriculture), but he lacks something that is even more valuable to an adolescent: that is, his self-respect and worth. Arlo's siblings have surely proven their importance (luckily their build is highly conducive for cultivating crops), yet our chicken-hearted protagonist has hardly left his mark (as the picture so graciously puts it). This will lead Arlo on a fateful quest to find his usefulness and merit in life, which, to be honest, isn't as significant as one might think.

Image result for the good dinosaur film stills

    Act III: You really didn't think there was going to be more to it than that, did you? For, from here, the film predictably progresses into your typical "coward's tale" and coming-of-age narrative—there's tragedy, a number of moments filled with joy and an ending that is borderline platitudinous. Arlo does befriend a small and boisterous Cro-Magnon child named Spot, and there is some hint of conflict stemming from a carnivorous crew of predatory pterodactyls, but these things become inconsequential when considering the hackneyed configuration of the film's structure.          

    "The Good Dinosaur" is well paced, technically proficient and even more beautiful to behold (the movie's hyper-realistic look and feel certainly helps to divert one's attention from other, less appealing features), and I would have no issue proclaiming it to be a partial success if not for its striking resemblance to another Disney picture by the name of "The Lion King." (Not to give away any specifics, but if you've seen the latter, then prepare yourself for many of the same actions and events, and in a manner of speaking, expect to see many of the same MacGuffins at work.) The story of Arlo clearly parallels that of young Simba, and although these things do tend to happen every so often in Hollywood, I could never commend a picture infused with such blatant unoriginality.

    Pixar is a company that makes a living off of its innovative computer technology and storylines that can only be described as endearing, and yet "The Good Dinosaur" appears to be nothing more than a money-grabbing and soulless effort. In fact, of all the dinosaur-themed films that I've come across during my tenure as a critic (which there are many), this one is particularly pitiful. Pixar's "Inside Out" is set to be a surefire winner for Best Animated Picture, and so it seems as if there was little incentive here. If you are not creating art, then you are part of the problem.

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