There must be a fascinating backstory to explain how what is quite possibly the most labored-over production in Pixar's history turns out to be one of their most pedestrian and average -- I look forward to hearing it someday. It's no secret that this title was pulled from release last year for fine-tuning by John Lassiter, himself, and the effort is still problematic after the first promising two minutes.
While still classier and lovelier than most animated fare, The Good Dinosaur is basically Bambi-meets-The Lion King with prehistoric creatures. It looks like someone was attempting a much more ambitious project and finally went, "Ah screw it, just make it The Jungle Book with dinosaurs and put this one to bed already." There is hardly anything in this film that doesn't feel like it's borrowed from a better one from an earlier time.
It doesn't help that the superior Inside Out is still fresh and impressive to many of us; this movie is as safe as the previous release was unique. It has no moment that comes close to the emotion of when we learned what happens to imaginary friends when we grow-up.
Besides the fact that I think small kids might be frustrated by the pace and sad tone, the biggest problem here might be that our hero (Arlo, the fearful dinosaur) is kinda whiny and boring -- plus, the character design is not particularly imaginative or appealing. Quite rubbery, like a toy. In fact, much of the character design looks like it would be much more at home in a Dreamworks joint like, say, The Croods. And (again, like The Jungle Book) the movie feels very, very episodic. Let's put it this way: I didn't cry. It's a Pixar movie about a little lost dinosaur, and I didn't weep like a little girl -- that should tell you something.
At one point, I thought to myself that this was the only Pixar film that felt like someone had cut out all of the musical numbers, and I wished they hadn't.
And, lastly, even though I'm loathe to offer spoilers, let me just say that, with The Good Dinosaur, the device of killing a parent to forward the narrative in a Disney/Pixar movie has officially gone from cliché to ridiculous. You're better than this, Pixar.
I reiterate: this isn't a bad movie, just a disappointingly average one.
(Loudinni specializes in reviews within 500 words, sans spoilers.)