The Good Dinosaur
(PG) Voices of Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn
It is fascinating that a review can turn into a commentary upon the company that puts out the film, but it is hard to avoid discussing animation studio Pixar when reviewing its latest release, The Good Dinosaur. In the relatively short history of this production company, it has managed to put out some of the best animated films. But, since Disney bought out Pixar several years ago, it has stumbled with a multitude of sequels and a lack of original ideas. While it did prove last year that it still can innovate with Inside Out, in the same year Pixar also released this disastrous outing, The Good Dinosaur.
The latest Pixar outing begins with a question straight out of science fiction: “What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?” The dinosaur tale that follows is the introduction of a world where dinosaurs can talk, farm and herd cattle. Humans have evolved from wolves and all of this is set against the backdrop of Colorado-esque scenery. The central character is young Arlo, who is the runt of the litter of a farming family of Apatosaurus. As he grows, he tries to make his mark on the world and more importantly within his family. Life on the dinosaur farm takes a tragic turn that leads to Arlo’s separation from his family. During the adventure back home, he must confront his fears and prejudices (yes, dinosaurs have prejudices) and he befriends a wild human named, Spot. The two must work together to find their personal identities and survive the vicious world outside of the family farm.
To be fair, the visual landscapes are amazing. Pixar’s ability to portray real landscapes through computer generation continues to marvel the viewer and this is the key salvation to this outing. What is not seen in the trailers, though, is that director Peter Sohn is making a western with dinosaurs in the lead roles. Putting aside the multitude of references to bizarre evolutionary links, this is a story that borrows from other pre-historic films like Ice Age and The Croods. These films insisted upon a jump of logic, but their storylines were farcical enough that they were appealing. When it comes to The Good Dinosaur, there are many familiar elements and they lacks the laughs that would have helped to lift it from being an animated documentary of dinosaurs.
But the biggest problem with The Good Dinosaur is that it takes itself too seriously. It never allows the story to be considered ridiculous, but rather that it is plausible. Which is hard to swallow when the Apatosaurus family are farmers, the Tyrannosaurus Rex family are cattle ranchers and the humans run in packs like wolves. If that is not enough, cold-blooded reptiles are meant to survive in the harsh climate of the mountains. Another component that never gets explained is that across this expansive landscape there are very few dinosaurs. The asteroid did not eliminate the dinosaurs, but unlike what is presented in the opening credits, only a handful of dinosaurs inhabit this third rock from the sun.
The Good Dinosaur lacks the magic of Pixar or Disney. Director Sohn had a dinosaur-size task to make something of the mess that was given to him. He was left with magnificent scenery, but a weak story. He did an admirable job, but this is a film that should have been allowed to go extinct.
What are the bigger questions we could ask our kids?
Based on what we can know from the Bible, mankind was created in the image of God. The Good Dinosaur is a ‘what if’ scenario, but it would be worth sitting down with children to explain the true origins story of this world and mankind. We can help them to understand that God made mankind with the purpose of caring for His creation and to glorify Him. This may help children to understand and even laugh more at the concept of The Good Dinosaur. This tawdry tale is meant to be mere entertainment, but the philosophical ideas within it should open the door to discussions with children and adults about the actual story of God’s plan for His good creation on this planet.
- Did God create the dinosaurs? (Genesis 1)
- Can we know about the creation of mankind? (Genesis 1, Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11)
- What does it mean to live with a purpose? (Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:13)