The Good Dinosaur’s impressive visuals is not enough to compensate for its derivative script which highlights the worst of Pixar’s creations – emotionally manipulative stories disguised as fables.

The film is a humorous and exciting original story about Arlo, a lively Apatosaurus with a big heart. After a traumatic event unsettles Arlo’s family, he sets out on a remarkable journey, gaining an unlikely companion along the way – a human boy. [Disney]

In terms of animation, The Good Dinosaur upholds Pixar’s excellence and more.

The natural environment in this alternate history is photo-realistic, from the stones to the American Southwest landscape (Japanese animators have already done this two years ago – The Garden of Words – but it’s still a commendable effort). Every detail is rendered with technical brilliance that what could have mundane moments in real life, such as packed dirt loosening into a mound of soil or the movement of shallow water in Arlo’s scenes, is a wonder by itself even for those who have a general knowledge of CGI.

The voice acting is decent enough and fits their roles.

In terms of storytelling though, the Good Dinosaur doesn’t live up the high standards that the best of its peers have established because of a derivative script.

We are introduced to simple country living. The over sized animals here are not just anthropomorphic, but also civilized. The movie starts with a pair of herbivore dinosaurs with a farm. They have three kids with pre-determined stock characters – the smart ass, the meathead, and the runt of the litter.

The plot focuses on the the coward straight outta the egg for a generic coming-of-age cum adventure narrative. Familiar elements will inevitably be used in kid’s films but Arlo doesn’t have any convincing reason why he’s such a fearsome dinosaur even before he stepped out of his shell. Any experienced moviegoer or viewer who has seen a couple of Pixar films already know how the movie is going to turn out in the first 20 minutes or less.

The story follows the Pixar formula to a T – adult lessons through the character arc of a misfit scarred by tragedy. Of course, there’s a sentimental moment set-up to make you cry. In fairness, Arlo’s journey is well though out and his relationship with Spot is developed nicely. There are also a couple of unexpected allies and fitting foils here. But everything is so predictable and obviously pieced together to tug at your heart strings. It doesn’t help that none of the characters are distinct nor memorable. Their cartoon style doesn’t match the realistic backdrop.

The neatly wrapped up ending comes in to finish the Pixar template. Essentially, The Good Dinosaur is an emotionally manipulative and forgettable by-the-Pixar-playbook story. It’s well made enough to entertain kids (probably 10 yrs old and below) but doesn’t have the mass appeal of its better crafted predecessors. The Pixar Braintrust disappointingly played it too safe, especially after the classic Inside Out.

On its own, it’s still a well made serviceable story about bravery and kinship, but not what we have come to expect from one of the powerhouses in animation.

My Rating: 6/10

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