The Good Dinosaur online movie review - Unfocused, Unrealized, Uninspired, and Confused
I just took the time to re-watch this movie and I'm looking at a full page and a half of notes. This movie is a mess. But that's not to say that it's a complete disaster.
The movie does have pretty impressive visuals to the point where there are quite a few scenes that you could easily mistake for nature footage if you didn't have context and the animation's really great as well. I was especially impressed with Spot's facial animation; they really nailed his ability to emote and, hilariously, he's the best character in the film despite not speaking a word. But the best feature of this movie, of course, is that it only takes up 93 minutes of my time.
Or 186 minutes if you consider I had to watch it twice.
Let me be direct. The first 20 minutes of this movie are a checklist of manipulative clichés(I'm looking at you Mufasa scene), the next 20 are an incoherent mess, and the rest, while more focused than the start, is bland and lazy. Not to mention insulting since they had such an interesting setting where the writers and character designers could've let their imaginations go wild but instead did literally nothing with it. It serves no purpose whatsoever and really disappoints and angers me.
Speaking of bland and lazy, the characters. Or lack thereof. Only 4 characters have any real character and it still makes me laugh that one of those 4 never even speak. The movie gets strangely harsh on our main character Arlo out of nowhere, but by the time the plot starts beating up on him I've literally disconnected with him completely. Not only does he have no character but he's already made himself unlikable and 2/3 of his remaining family get completely forgotten about. It's amazing.
The 20 minutes that follow the last just completely jump the shark with bug decapitation, a mole scene that goes nowhere, and an actual, for realisies, no joke drug scene. Which is also amazing.
Actually, let's talk about that bug scene. When I first saw this movie I was in a room with 10-15 other CoD playing, horror movie loving, desensitized and corrupted millennials and on that scene we all simultaneously exclaimed in shock and disbelief and continued to do so for the next few minutes. It was so unbelievably out of place and didn't fit the tone at all, but more on that later.
Before we go any further, I really can't let the toony character design have a pass. I know this movie is supposed to appeal to kids and all(which really can't be used as an excuse either since there are some jokes in this a child clearly wouldn't catch), but why would you put them in such photorealistic backgrounds? Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with toony design. But either they needed to be similarly photorealistic or the environments needed to be stylized. Kids may not notice, sure, but it's extremely noticeable and distracting. It's not subjective, it's an aesthetic problem.
Even with looks out of the way, this movie has no idea who it's trying to cater to and it's tone is schizophrenic. Since it has kid and adult oriented jokes I'm judging it as a family film, but the debate on what it was made to be is justified since it doesn't even seem to know itself. One moment there are heartfelt moral messages and the next moment a character's talking about how he actually, for realisies, no joke drowned an alligator in his own blood. I could not make that up if I tried.
Could something like that work in a family movie? Sure. But something like the Lion King(which we'll use as an example since this movie clearly rips it off anyway) had really dark themes, even murder plots, but not only did that movie had a couple things this one didn't;a consistent tone and some build-up to the seriousness. This movie started with a somewhat serious tone, sure, but that bug scene completely blind-sided me, 10 other godless teenagers, and many others I'm sure. I can imagine being in a theater and hearing children scream in terror.
Even if somebody didn't catch a lot of the plot holes through the story, which it has plenty of, I really can't fathom how anybody could honestly rate this anything higher than a five. But while there are some jokes that really hit home("clucker" wordplay and Dream Crusher), I can't be nice to this movie between the nonsensical and unrealized setting, lazy writing, manipulative plot devices, mixed messages, and clearly confused production. I'll give it a 3 since I really can't bring myself to hate it. It's got potential to be something great and the talent behind it is clear. On top of that I did manage to enjoy myself through a lot of the issues.
It just would've been nice if they... I don't know.
Yeah, that's the word.