When Pixar announces they are making a new film there’s a certain level of excitement that happens. They have built a reputation for emotionally moving, entertaining and thought provoking animated films that probably make Shel Silverstein jealous. Unfortunately, nobody has a career of home runs. Michael Jordan missed some shots during his career. Even Tom Brady throws an interception from time to time and that’s what I felt walking out of “The Good Dinosaur” this weekend. Pixar tried and failed to meet the level of excellence I have come to expect from their films.
The film opens with a “what if” scenario. What if a comet didn’t strike the earth and eliminate all the dinosaurs? Well, in theory, it’s plausible that dinosaurs and prehistoric man would co-exist, however briefly. This is a solid concept for story telling because it allows the viewer the chance to understand immediately what world we are about to enter. A world where dinosaurs and man co-exist on a prehistoric earth. That’s where it felt like the thinking stopped and the questionable took over.
The creative team behind this film decided that the dinosaurs would all sound like they belonged in a western film. So, the main dinosaur family sounds like cowboy farmers, the pterodactyls sound like stage coach or train robbing buffoons, and the Tyyannosaurus Rex family, led by Sam Elliott, really took the western cowboy rancher sound to the extreme. An odd choice, but they made a decision and stuck it… but they didn’t. For some reason, while every other dinosaur character sounds like a cowboy, the main dinosaur sounds like a normal city kid. Apparently accents aren’t hereditary and dinosaurs are born sounding western, except for one. This is not a learned accent. It’s a birthright and the lead character did not have this pattern of speech even though his family did. Bizarre.
The story is a coming of age tale for the young dinosaur. He must become a grown up dinosaur and face his fears head on. This film details the crucible that he must endure if he is ever to find his family again. He won’t do this alone either. He’ll have a trusty side kick human who acts like a dog. At one point the dinosaur and the kid get stoned on berries and the audience is treated to a weird drug trip montage which felt wildly out of place in a Pixar movie. This film felt like that scene in the movie “Elf” where they ship the children’s book that didn’t make sense because they didn’t want to go back and start over with a story that worked.
Then the ending, the dinosaur finds a family of humans for the kid before he heads back to his farm with the surviving family members that didn’t die (it’s Pixar, someone always dies). I thought maybe we’d have a scene where the kid finds the dinosaur and his family and both families live on the farm and it’s all happily ever after. Nope. The kid goes off with his adopted human family and the dinosaur finds his family on the farm. So, the moral of the story is, have fun with strangers but don’t get too close because you’ll leave them eventually because they’re different? I walked out of that film so confused. The animation looked incredible though. So while I was thoroughly confused I did love how real some of the scenic shots looked.
“The Good Dinosaur” is in theaters now! I give this film the earth destroying comet it deserves so this ridiculous story would not have been made. Let’s leave the dinosaur and human experience to the Jurassic Park franchise. They seem to be back on track finally.
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