Review: ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ Pixar Human and Apatosaurus

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Creed’ to battle ‘Hunger Games’ at holiday box office.

There is something that feels altogether familiar about “The Good Dinosaur,” the latest animated movie from Pixar and Disney. Animated dinosaurs and an up-and-coming boxer will fight “The Hunger Games” for box-office dominance over the Thanksgiving weekend, as Hollywood hopes for a busy five days of clashing heavyweights.As the 15th feature from Pixar Animation Studios, The Good Dinosaur is a good movie for young audiences — and for parents who want to share a prehistoric moral fable with their children.

That’s probably because it’s yet another animated movie about dinosaurs, and one that follows a tried and true children’s movie formula of a young hero conquering his fears over the course of a long, dangerous journey to find their way home. This is meant as a compliment: While they’re animated and appeal to children, their emotional and thematic sophistication also makes them satisfying to grownups—maybe even more so.

The three-way battle for the U.S. box-office dollars should give theater owners more reason to cheer after big openings posted by the James Bond film “Spectre” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2.” “Mockingjay — Part 2” pulled in $102 million last weekend in its domestic opening. That includes the notion that the giant meteorite which hit Earth 65 million years ago, leading to the mass extinction of large dinosaurs, actually missed instead. G The toon titan’s 16th feature is its unprecedented second one in a single year, following the summer triumph of Inside Out, and the film has elements of both the studied and the slapdash about it. Though that’s a huge number, it’s about 15% less than what the first installment generated. “Spectre” opened $18 million lower than its 2012 predecessor, “Skyfall.” “If ‘Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Creed’ both overperform, people will definitely be talking about that,” said Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at the tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. “That’s what Hollywood needs right now after the fall we’ve had.” Walt Disney Co.’s new Pixar offering could give the industry a boost as the long-awaited prehistoric family adventure aims for $60 million to $70 million in ticket sales from Wednesday through Sunday.

Sure, the Ice Age flicks mostly serve as babysitting tools for exhausted parents, but a good kid’s movie can do more than just be a shiny, flashy distraction to keep tykes occupied—even if they’re not as complex or as witty as, say, Toy Story. He lives on a farm with his father (Jeffrey Wright) and mother (Frances McDormand) and a pair of siblings, the only member of the family who has a hard time pulling his own weight, or, in this case, making his mark. That said, is very obviously a movie made for little-kids, pitching its life lessons in a way that, at first, feels very alienating for anybody over the age of 17. Swept far down a river, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a timid apatosaurus runt born to a family of farming dinosaurs, attempts to trek home with a young caveman companion Spot (Jack Bright).

This isn’t an emotional blitzkrieg like Inside Out or a grandly ambitious effort such as Wall-E but, I wouldn’t be shocked if, 15 years from now, a generation of budding film-lovers points to as one of their formative childhood viewing experiences. Their encounters in the wild are bizarre, like a kind of prehistoric “Alice in Wonderland.” There’s a googly-eyed styracosaurus with small animals living on his horns and a pack of pterodactyl storm-chasers addicted to the “higher elevation” of a hurricane. Meanwhile, director Peter Sohn’s movie also contains one sequence of sheer animation genius: Using few words and only the most basic visual clues, the two lead characters share a profound moment of grieving for lost parents. His only companion is the small man-child, who does his best to keep poor Arlo safe and fed, and who provides him with the affection he so dearly needs.

But the dinos and people look as if they needed more time on the drawing board, suggesting the picture might have been rushed to cash in on the mammoth success of Jurassic World. It was originally expected to arrive in May 2014, but Pixar pushed back its release date a month after it removed the original director from the project. The conceit of the narrative has the dinosaurs existing in a quasi-American frontier of plains and mountains while Arlo and Spot represent the coming-of-age theme. “But within that we wanted to make an orchestral score because the vistas are huge in the movie and we wanted the three-dimensional affect of a large orchestra, but with lots of alternate colours.” “We sang in the church choir and took piano lessons but we have our separate experiences,” says Mychael. “Jeff is a guitar player and I am keyboard player.” Jeff played guitar in a series of rock bands that toured mostly around Toronto area bars and clubs. This sequence reminds us that, at their best, Pixar animations can plumb the depth of the human experience even when non-human animals, toys or other creatures are involved. The company later named Peter Sohn to take the director’s chair. “Creed,” co-financed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and New Line Cinema, should take in about $35 million over the five-day holiday frame, analysts said.

Mychael took composition at the University of Toronto, wrote his first score for Atom Egoyan’s Family Viewing and ended up as McLaughlin Planetarium’s composer-in-residence in Toronto. The screenplay, by Meg LeFauve from a story conceived by Bob Peterson (who was replaced as director by Sohn, a Pixar veteran making his feature debut), is actually set in a parallel time. Jordan after the failure of this summer’s “Fantastic Four.” Jordan has earned raves for his performance as Adonis Creed, son of Rocky Balboa opponent Apollo Creed, who was played by Carl Weathers. Sylvester Stallone returns to the big screen in the role of Balboa. “Creed” is the first film in the MGM boxing franchise since 2006. “Rocky Balboa” debuted to a solid $12 million that December on its way to a domestic total of $70 million.

Arlo encounters a lost human child nicknamed Spot (voiced by Jack Bright), who is practically a wild animal for all of his grunting, barking, and the fact that he walks on all fours. It is ironic, though, that even though Arlo is terrified of everything, there are a number of moments in the film that are very scary for younger viewers, as was evidenced by the screening I attended. Fellow newcomer “Victor Frankenstein,” the latest take on the story of a scientist playing God, is expected to be less of a factor than the other major competitors. The family considers Spot a pest, but after a terrible flood both kills Arlo’s beloved father and distances him from home, he and the human must work together to get back to his family.

This is also the point where the kill-or-be-killed stakes of prehistoric life become considerably more urgent, perhaps too much so for the younger audience members the film is clearly aimed at. But he is also more adept in the woods than the fearful Arlo, and the film’s most tender moments are in the wordless bonding between the pair of orphans as they navigate their way through terrain that appears modeled on the Rockies, somewhere near the geysers of Yellowstone.

Predatory gangs of raptors and pterodactyls (the latter led by Steve Zahn’s vacantly voracious Thunderclap) threaten to have our wandering heroes for lunch, or at least a quick bite. Of course, there’s nothing actually wrong with that — there are plenty of nice-enough movies about talking dinosaurs out there, after all, many of which children adore. The prequel they gave it instead — which seemed to be aimed squarely at the kids who saw the original and were maybe in college at this point, something they did much more successfully with Toy Story 3 — was missing the sense of wonder and themes about childhood that made the original so great.

Water — whether in pebbly shallows, luminously reflected on stone walls or welling up in the eyes of a homesick dinosaur — has never been more beautifully captured. For all the praise Pixar rightly receives, sometimes the company’s movies’ verbal wit overshadows its extraordinary visual splendor: The Toy Story films are so hilariously clever that it’s easy to forget how flat-out gorgeous they are as pieces of animation, for example. And though a host of films from “127 Hours” to “Wild” have in recent years exalted life on the trail, no film will better spur nature-lovers to head for the hills. In it, a boy and father sit on opposite sides of a room, each crouched in solemn devotion to boxes before them: a TV blaring a superhero cartoon for the boy, a cabinet for Hindu meditation for the father.

The result is a story that is weaker than the movie’s overall tone and visual splendor, especially when it gets too hung up on the dangers brought by a group of predators led by a Pterodactyl named Thunderclap (Steve Zahn). Maybe it was something about the structure of the story (which literally featured our heroine moving back and forth instead of moving forward), or the subpar humor, or the blatant but failed attempts at feminism (when Merida claims she’ll be shooting for her own hand at the archery ceremony, it rings false).

But honestly it’s just a weak entry in the Pixar lineup, and we’d have to wait a little longer for the studio to truly be “back.” Really the only thing A Bug’s Life has going against it (besides the race back in 1998 against Dreamworks’ Antz) is that it’s not one of those cross-generational movies that appeals as much to parents as it does to their kids. Once you get past the initial gimmick — the meteor that took out the dinosaurs whizzed right by and the dinos have evolved into a talking, farming, herding society — the plot is a pretty simplistic one. Inside Out has a lot of things going for it: Striking animation, a female protagonist who isn’t a princess and a storyline designed to make you cry. But the coup d’etat of this movie is the voice performances by Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from The Office) as Joy and Sadness, respectively. There’s a lot going on in Monsters, Inc., and sometimes the movie can get a little lost in itself, but this film has just an incredible ending, full of hope and possibilities.

It’s thanks, mostly, to that unforgettable When She Loved Me flashback sequence about Jessie the Cowgirl and her former owner that this movie works. The sea-set tale of an over-protective father searching for his lost son is also one of Pixar’s most overt stories meant for both parents and kids, but it also never lets the sentiment over-power the comedy. Finding Nemo is simply a hilarious movie, from Ellen DeGeneres’s forgetful Dory to the shark version of an AA meeting to the surfer turtles to “Mount Wannahockaloogie.” Combine that with some incredible visuals, and Nemo was an instant classic. The movie put Pixar on the map, it pioneered computer animation and it featured all the ingredients we have come to know and love in so many of the Pixar movies that followed: Emotional storytelling, action sequences, insights on the human condition, all-star voice cast and protagonists you never would have thought of yourself. Pixar stories are almost always about growing up, but none as much as this one, which saw young Andy from the first two Toy Story movies go to college, and grappling with his own fears and insecurities about growing up.

It’s simply a superhero movie, but one of the best ones to hit theaters in the past 20 years (yup, including The Dark Knight and The Avengers and all the rest). Another of Pixar’s films that absolutely should not have worked — from it’s nearly-silent beginning to its harsh commentary on technology and modern society to its robotic love story — WALL-E is a nearly perfect film. In between how cute he is watching Hello, Dolly! and putting bras on his eyes, there’s a devastating critique on the world as we know it, and yet it’s still a very enjoyable movie for children (and plenty of adults).

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