The Good Dinosaur (dir by Peter Sohn)
It may be hard to remember this now but, at the beginning of 2015, a lot of film bloggers were very excited about an upcoming film from Pixar Studios. “This,” they said, “is the film that will remind people why they love Pixar in the first place! In fact, this might be the first animated film to get a best picture nomination since Toy Story 3!” Of course, there was another movie from Pixar that was due to come out in 2015 but everyone agreed that movie sounded too weird and silly to be a legitimate contender. One of the movies would be a huge success and the other would probably be forgotten in a year or two.
And, at the time, everyone was sure that The Good Dinosaur would be the triumph while Inside Out would be the also-ran.
Instead, the exact opposite happened. Inside Out turned out to be one of the most innovative and charming animated films ever. Meanwhile, The Good Dinosaur — despite being a financial and critical success — has struggled to escape from Inside Out‘s shadow.
But you know what? Taken on its own terms, The Good Dinosaur is a likable and entertaining movie. No, it’s not as good as Inside Out but then again, the same can be said for a lot of good movie that were released in 2015. Inside Out, of course, is a movie for adults that can still be enjoyed by kids. The Good Dinosaur is definitely a movie for kids but it’s still visually striking enough that adults can get something out of it as well.
Plotwise, The Good Dinosaur imagines a world in which that meteorite did not strike the Earth and dinosaurs and humans developed next to each other. A teenage dinosaur — eager to prove that he’s worthy despite being clumsy and easily scared — gets separated from his family and tries to get back to them. Along the way, he deals with villainous pterodactyls and befriends a human child that he names Spot. Sadly, the film brings about as much depth to the idea of talking dinosaurs as Pixar previously brought to the idea of talking cars but still, it’s an enjoyable and undeniably effective film. Unlike Inside Out, it may not be great but it’s definitely good enough.
The Peanuts Movie (dir by Steve Martino)
My sister Erin and I saw The Peanuts Movie when it first opened last November. As we left the theater, we both agreed that the movie was genuinely sweet and cute but that the ending just didn’t feel right. Ultimately, we agreed that the ending was just too happy.
I don’t claim to be the world’s biggest expert on the life of Charlie Brown but I do know that he’s been around for nearly 70 years and, in that time, I don’t think he’s ever really had a traditionally happy ending. From what I’ve seen of his holiday specials, it seems that Charlie is usually fated to end up sitting by himself while snow falls all around him. And really, that always seemed to be the main appeal of Charlie Brown as a character. Even though nothing ever goes his way, he never stops trying. Even though he may sometimes get discouraged, he never gives up. The Peanuts Movie actually rewards Charlie Brown for his patience and that didn’t quite feel right.
But you know what? Maybe, after 70 years, Charlie Brown has finally earned the right to have at least one unambiguously positive ending. The Peanuts Movie was a financial success so I imagine there will be a sequel. If, during that sequel, Charlie wins a game or kicks that football or gets a kite to fly or actually wears a flattering outfit, it’ll be a problem. But for now, it’s acceptable and perhaps even appropriate that he finally got to feel good about something at the end of The Peanuts Movie.
As for the rest of the film, it’s a cute homage to the original Peanuts specials. Despite that happy ending, it remains true to the spirit of its source material and it’s obvious that the filmmakers had a lot of affection for Charlie, Linus, Snoopy, and all the rest.
And yes, Snoopy does steal the entire film.
Was there ever any doubt?