GoodDInoThe Good Dinosaur (Dir: Pete Sohn)

This year marked the first time that Pixar Animation Studios had two films released for our viewing pleasure. The first, Inside Out reaffirmed the studio as one capable of developing unique and original story-telling after a sequence of flagging sequels. Their second of the year, The Good Dinosaur, is one that has come through a somewhat troubled production, seeing its director and its cast replaced in the last hour. It would be sensible, then, to enter this flick with a certain sense of trepidation. Its concept, depicting a world in which an asteroid never wiped out the dinosaurs, leaving them as the dominant species on the planet, has potential, and while it may not reach its fullest, The Good Dinosaur can stand as another surprisingly mature and beautiful piece of animation from the highly regarded studio.

When his father dies and he is separated from his family in an accident, young neurotic Apatosaurus Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is left stranded up river far from home. His only chance to mark it back is to cover a vast area of land, with only a small feral human child to accompany him.

The variation of a boy and his dog tale, what with the dinosaur as a boy and the young human, who comes to be known as Spot, as the dog, drives the somewhat tired homeward bound journey which has piloted one too many Pixar movies over the years (Inside Out included). It is a dynamic that proves effective though, with both the characters having suffered great losses, finding solace and safety in each other (the moment where Arlo draws out his loss in the dirt is achingly poignant). They also make for a lovable pairing in which to follow on high stakes adventures, adventures which see them tangle with Cowboy-esque T-Rex’s, and nefarious Pterodactyls.

What marks The Good Dinosaur as a truly worthy addition to the Pixar canon is its beautifully rendered visual landscapes. The world presented here, one that is still prehistoric but close to modern American outland, is nothing short of spectacular. You would be forgiven for thinking that the backgrounds were deployed here were in fact live action and not the work of animators and pixels. It if hard to believe quite what they mange to craft here, be it a reflection in water, injury detail, rock formations or the glow of a thousand fireflies, every frame is stunning.

It is a shame that the characters themselves look far too much like cartoon characters to inhabit this very realistic world.  The very serious characterisation helps to establish Arlo and Spot, but the character designs feel like an after though of the troubled production, rather than what should be committed to screen.

The Good Dinosaur offers little in the way of a surprising narrative, but it is an affective one. It taps into relate-able emotions of loss, loneliness and inadequacy, with a certain level of sure-handedness but never with a a truly unique drive. As a result, The Good Dinosaur feels fairy routine rather than another home run in the shape of Inside Out. But there can be no denying that is presents perhaps the most beautiful scenery that the studio has ever produced. 3/5  

Peanuts

Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie (Dir: Steve Martino)

The work of Charles Schulz is held fondly by many, particularly by many of our parent’s generation. Celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year, it was perhaps inevitable that Charlie Brown, his loyal dog Snoopy and friends would return to the screen for both the old and new generation. With it comes the also somewhat inevitable ‘3D-ification’ of Schulz’s characters, as seems to be the case for any big screen adaptation of once hand-drawn characters. While the style applied here initially jars, it, and the film itself, end up pulling through to stand as a loving tribute to the work of Charles Schulz.

With a new school year beckoning, the accident prone yet good-natured Charlie Brown looks sets his sights on changing the public perception of himself amongst his peers. That goal becomes something even greater with the arrival of the new Red Haired Girl, whom Charlie falls hopelessly head over heels for. In his desperate attempts to impress, Charlie must learn that perhaps he has had the best qualities all along.

The story-telling of The Peanuts Movie is incredibly slight, even for a kids movie, with each attempt by Charlie to prove his worth coming off as a little episodic. A side adventure with Snoopy, whilst staying true to the nature of Schulz’s comic strips, feels very forced and a little too much like narrative filler. It helps, then, that all of the Peanuts cast of characters remain true to themselves and work to charm throughout.

Charlie Brown and snoopy may not be the most iconic within British Children’s culture, but for those that spent time with them at a young age will easily find the means to engage and hold on to the nostalgic memories that are very much needed to engage with this film. Schulz’s characters have always held a higher sense of self and wisdom than most characters that populate children’s entertainment properties, and what makes this film work is its respectful nature to the intellect and maturity of the characters that populate the screen. 3/5

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