Disney have a Junior TV channel – and now Pixar have gone the same way by releasing their first truly junior film.
Despite some simply dazzling animation it unfortunately produces mixed results – with this rather generic effort that definitely skews younger than their previous films.
This Bambi-esque story plays out more like a weaker Ice Age entry, set in an alternate Earth where the dinosaur-destroying asteroid actually misses the planet – leading to the creatures inhabiting the landscape for (at least) millions of years longer instead of becoming extinct.
Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is the runt of his Apatosaurus family litter – far smaller than his siblings with an extremely (initially quite annoyingly so) ‘wimpish’ personality – minimally contributing to his farming homestead run by his Poppa (Casino Royale’s Jeffrey Wright) and Momma (Fargo’s Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand).
But after being separated from his life after being knocked unconscious and drifting ‘down river’, he befriends an unlikely human friend, an early speech-less caveboy called Spot (Jack Bright), and together they adventure across the mysterious landscape as Arlo attempts to get home – and confront his fears to get his footprint on the prestigious family monument.
Unfortunately this journey is far less riveting than you’d think, with only a smattering of actual dinosaurs at hand, a friendly bunch of T-Rex’s (headed by Sam Elliot’s father Butch) and the tepid nemeses of the piece, a group of pterodactyls – led by Steve Zahn’s Thunderclap – providing characters you actually care very little for.
In fact the movie really doesn’t show a lot more ingenuity than the Mouse House’s underwhelming early computer-generated effort with 2000’s Dinosaur, and is actually more akin to a ‘weaker’ Disney-only effort like Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons or Planes – which were all more than passable but didn’t linger in the memory for too long.
The animation was allegedly the first Pixar film to have production problems, and this is prevalent with the surprisingly linear story that almost gives it a Pixar-less feel.
But, and here’s the big BUT, the animation is breathtakingly gorgeous – with simply sensational weather effects – and this adventure is saved by two pivotal heart-rending scenes that really resonate and can’t help but leave a lump in your throat.
For these two massive pluses alone make it watchable, and if you have young kids you could still do far worse than this generally pleasant offering.
Just don’t expect it to trouble your ‘Top Ten’ Pixar list . . .
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Gavin Miller[youtube id=”daFnEiLEx70″ width=”600″ height=”350″]
Voice Cast: Raymond Achoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, Anna Paquin, Jack McGraw, John Ratzenberger & Sam Elliott
Running Time: 1 Hr 33 Mins
Director: Peter Sohn