The Good Dinosaur: A Review

Two months late, but here are my thoughts on the recent Pixar movie, The Good Dinosaur.

First, It’s a very beautiful film. It is worth it to watch it just for the visuals. As an observer, you can feel the action that happens on the screen when Arlo, the main character, hits his head on rocks or grasps a ledge. The environment of visuals and sound can envelope you in your experience.

Because the sound and visual make the movie-watching feel immersive, the times when the movie had Arlo live through unbelievable events such as surviving something what would permanently harm or kill him, it broke the reality pretty starkly.

I had a hard time trying to feel sympathy with Spot when all the other critters, who are on about the same evolutionary level as Spot, we aren’t supposed to feel sympathy for and whose deaths are often quick and throw-away. Either your critters are critters or they are sympathetic characters.

Secondly, the story wasn’t particularly original. It’s your basic coming of age wilderness story. Pixar has a history of original stories and when one of their movies doesn’t live up to that (I see you, Cars) it’s very disappointing.

The Good Dinosaur has been touted as being a Western, and I knew that before my first viewing of it (I’ve seen it twice). Because of that foreknowledge, I tried to pick up on the western theme. However the first time through, I didn’t catch the “western” feel in any part of the movie except for the T-Rex part. The accents just didn’t catch my ear, I guess. The second time seeing it, I very much saw settlers/American West throughout the whole thing, but it was too subtle for me the first time. I kept trying to figure out how this was a western like “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and the old dime novels my grandad reads. I expected more saloons and midday duels. Also, I’m tired of the “buck-toothed hick” trope, so when it repeated with the wrastlers, it felt cheap.

The most important criticisms, I think though, speak to what Pixar could have done but didn’t:

  • Why not have Arlo or Spot be female? I’m sure the writers and people at Pixar have heard the criticisms of their lack of female characters in movies- why can’t they just go with making more characters female? Would it have fundamentally changed the story? Also, little things like the “modesty” furs on the female human critters (why not have all the human characters clothed as much as the female ones?)
  • The human critters were white. If we are going off of early evolution of humanoids, they’d be some shade of brown.
  • The humans (and dinosaurs) were all in nuclear families. I can believe that for Arlo’s pioneer family (a la Little House on the Prairie), but for the human critters, human evolution would not have settled into nuclear families. Primates live in large family groups- where were all the other human critters? Current human families worldwide probably fit the family group set-up more than the nuclear family set-up.

All three of those can be summed up with, “Hey, Pixar! Where’s your diversity? With so much conversation in the world about how media portrays women and minorities, why aren’t you doing that?!”

I would recommend seeing it because of the visuals. The short before the show, Sanjay’s Super Team, was cute and a great original concept.

Lastly, I couldn’t find the Pizza Planet truck in The Good Dinosaur. The second time I watched I looked almost exclusively for it with no luck.

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