2 Pixar releases in one year, how exciting and new for this studio, yet this prehistoric picture is neither exciting or new, it’s certainly lush and easy to follow but my thoughts of the trailers looking childish were sadly not proven wrong. This film is the kindergarten Pixar to counter balance the much better and more grown up themes of ‘Inside Out’.
Apatosaurus parents Ida and Henry (Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright) raise three children on their farm, but youngest and littlest of the lot is Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) who is afraid of nearly everything. On a lightning filled journey to try and catch a human kid or critter Arlo is told to overcome his inner worries and on an ensuing trip with this boy he learns what he’s capable of.
It’s such a basic and disappointingly uninspiring plot, the story of a protagonist overcoming a problem through mis-adventures is something I didn’t expect Pixar to do so simply. Meg LeFauve handles the screenplay as if aiming it for the younger audiences. There’s no adult smarts or intelligence coursing throughout to help this A to B road-trip like narrative become more sparky. Upon first hearing about this Pixar process I instantly thought of the meteor missing and therefore seeing a film about the dinosaurs in a more modern day setting but the first trailer swept that exciting prospect away.
I just feel that the whole dinosaur meeting man moment isn’t that dramatic and what could have been a stronger theme is lost in the annoying thread of Arlo’s klutzy nature. Even if LeFauve and the four other story writers had shunted the time forward some more we could have seen some more engaging scenes with larger groups of humans in a period that never happened in real life. Arlo and Spot’s bond is emotional by the end don’t get me wrong but I feel they team up way too quickly and in general is quite bland.
Now to get to the look of this movie, I really loved the sheer detail of the backgrounds, the visual beauty of these million year old landscapes are incredible, the water, the dust, the rocks, it all fills out the screen with colour and majesty for this film about the power of nature. Frustratingly, these gorgeous sceneries are flawed by the characters. I didn’t think they’d come across badly for me but they do, the dinosaurs are so oddly shaped that it clashes with the more sophisticated work of the scenes the creatures find themselves in. I know it’s animated but these dinos feel so cartoonish that it bugged me. At least it had a fun looking’Dumbo’ Pink Elephants on Parade moment as the two get drugged on some fruit.
Musically this second 2015 Pixar feature hits the right notes. Mychael and Jeff Danna compose a great number of tracks that help this coming of age story come along. It swells for the emotional parts, such as the circling of families or the boy and his dog ending. The score also hits peaks for the more dramatic whirls that mirror the crushing sights of lightning and flooding rivers. I think their work on the score is great and would defintley make some of the scenes much more frightening for the children watching.
The voice cast is good, after a director and acting re-shuffle this movie obviously had some issues but that isn’t felt with the people behind the microphones. Jeffrey Wright sounds strong and all knowing as the Pixar equivalent of Mufasa. Steve Zahn has one of the best roles in a flitting rage of evil portrayed in his pterodactyl character. Raymond Ochoa does a neat job as the main character though he becomes quite annoying very fast as a somewhat passive character for the most part, likely scared of his own shadow. Frances McDormand doesn’t get much to say but sounds kind as the loving mother dino. I just have to mention Peter Sohn who not only directs but voices a creature adorned Styracosaurus who happens to be the weirdest one scene animated character for a long while.
It suffers for me because it comes after ‘Inside Out’ but also more realistically because it has a one note story that doesn’t do much. But saying this, even for a film of theirs that isn’t strong it still had me enjoying parts and even welling up which just shows that Pixar still have that magic within their work.