Pixar’s latest film has the misfortune of following what’s perhaps Pixar’s greatest. Comparisons to this summer’s brilliant Inside Out were never going to help whatever the animation studio followed it up with, but The Good Dinosaur has problems of its own.
The story begins with a novel question: What if the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs millions of years ago actually missed Earth, allowing the prehistoric creatures to evolve, learn to farm, and develop speech? In practice, though, the conceit is a pat justification to pair the movie’s young hero, an apatosaurus named Arlo, with a feral human boy he calls Spot, as Arlo tries to find his way home after he’s swept away by a river.
While the story attempts the moves that a Pixar film typically makes—nonverbal storytelling, death, a bittersweet ending—most of The Good Dinosaur’s punches land soft, made worse by the disconnect that exists between the overly cartoonish style of the characters and the photorealistic landscapes. B–