By Bill Arceneaux
Pixar has knocked it out of the park once again this year with The Good Dinosaur. Does it rival 2015’s previous effort Inside Out? Yes. Does it completely win over Inside Out? Maybe by a skin of the teeth tie. It’s hard to measure properly the excellence of these films, as they rate at the same score (for me, anyways). Perhaps it’ll be up to you and yours to determine to what degrees makes for the better film. Perhaps I’ll figure that out myself by the end of this article. For sure, The Good Dinosaur is not, as one critic has said, “the worst Pixar film since Cars 2.” By default, if it stars Larry the Cable Guy, it might just be worse than anything you can compare.
The movie is absolutely beautiful. Projecting my vanity for a moment, it’s gorgeous to look at, with clear and textured animation. When dinosaurs stomp the ground, we see the motion follow throughout their body. The environments, like rivers and mountains, are rendered as realistically as you could imagine. It amazed me at just how crisp and picturesque the landscapes were, feeling like cartoons over live action shots. The natural ambiance captured gives way to the mystic atmosphere of the journey and inward spirituality, maturity and love discovered.
This is a western, but not in the vein of something similar to Rango. Honestly, it reminds me of a cross between El Topo and a kid-friendly The Hobbit. It’s folksy here and there, as a family of dinosaurs is shown to be farmers in a prairie-like area. The idea is a bit absurd, as they seed the land with inventions that would’ve been difficult to produce given how their bodies are situated. Despite a few ludicrous lapses, The Good Dinosaur is very much a semi-acid trip. Remember the extended sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey where the astronaut moves through space and time? That attitude comes into play many times in this film. Stretches with little to no dialogue, many colors, heavy themes, time to think, character on a vision quest, etc. It’s far out, man.
There is a quick pace to the opening scenes, something that thankfully calms down and settles soon after. It establishes everything we need to know, but in a hurried way. This isn’t a problem or a gripe, as it completely makes sense. Set up fast, execute slowly. Works for me, and probably more so for impatient audiences wanting the story to pick up. There’s only so much homespun wisdom from range life parents that one can take.
This is the second movie in the span of a week that has brought me to tears (the other being Creed – also recommended) and the second Pixar movie this year to make me consider my life. Inside Out hit me on a very personal level, being literally about emotion and mental faculties. The Good Dinosaur involves itself with anxiety and fear, which was what I related to most in Inside Out. It tackles this with a wisdom guide-like eye and an air of universal mysticism. So different from any other Pixar flick, it will be ranking very high on my year end list.
Still fresh in my mind, I can’t say which movie is better. They’re both wonderful. They’re both superb. But The Good Dinosaur might edge out Inside Out for me. A simple template for a grand journey into self. Both movies deal with philosophical and metaphysical concepts, but where Inside Out was clever and mindful, The Good Dinosaur is almost poetic, always heartfelt. I guess it really is a matter of degrees. A matter of preference. Huh.
5 / 5 *s
For more from the author, follow him on Twitter at @BillReviews and visit his page at Medium.com/Flicker-Fading.