Movie Review: The Good Dinosaur

We watched The Good Dinosaur with the fam last week. Pixar. Dinosaurs! What could go wrong?

Quite a bit, actually.

It’s not that it’s a bad movie. It just isn’t particularly original. It’s a Frankenstein monster of different movies, stitched carefully together so you can’t see the seams at first glance.

Part of this might be expectations. When I sit down to watch a Pixar movie, I’ve been trained to know what to expect. Intriguing, involving characters. Original story. Compelling message. A tad preachy, perhaps, but certainly well intended. Fantastic visuals.

This one had the visuals in spades. The animation on the scenery was jaw dropping. The water was incredible. But everything else? Just not there, alas.

It started with the characters. The story’s about a young dinosaur who wants to prove himself to his father, and ends up going on an (inadvertent) adventure to do so. Which I suppose works as far as generic plots go, but there’s nothing in it to distinguish this character from others. He’s not unique, other than being a dinosaur. Which of course leads me to wonder what it is that makes other characters unique. What is it that made us root for Simba in the Lion King, for example? We see him go through a tough time, but we also see him have dreams. He’s cocky. Entitled. But good hearted. He’s got interactions with friends and family to show us that.

Good Dinosaur has all of that, but it feels like someone ticking off boxes. Simba had a dad talk? Check. Struggled with a few things? Check. It’s like every piece is in there to ape something a different movie already did, and none of it fits into a cohesive whole.

There are some shining moments in there. T-Rexes that act like cowboys. An insane Triceratops. The relation the dinosaur develops with the human. But all of those are peripheral. The engine driving the movie is the dinosaur’s drive to prove himself, and that’s where things fall flat. Look at me–it’s a few days later, and I can’t even remember the dinosaur’s name. That’s a bad sign right there.

Looking over the trivia section of IMDB, it seems like this was a story that just never got off the ground. They kept trying to retool it to make it work, and in the end . . . it went nowhere. A classic example of why sometimes it’s best to just step away from a project instead of insisting on finishing it. You want to be thorough and do a good job, but that’s not always possible. I have finished writing 14 different novels. Of those 14, I’ve only submitted four to editors so far. And that doesn’t even include the 7 novels I started and made significant progress on before setting them aside.

Not saying Pixar doesn’t know this, of course. It’s more an observation that it happens to the best of us: not being able to see and recognize when something just isn’t working.

In the end, this was just s 2/5 movie for me. And for a Pixar film, that’s about as low as it gets . . .

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