This is one of the weakest Pixar films for quite some time (maybe even the second weakest of all time) came out last year in the form of The Good Dinosaur. This film, directed by Peter Sohn, suffers from an over-simplified story, a bundle of unexciting characters, and lazy voice acting. But its quickly pulled up by a handful of refreshing shots are are visually enticing and cinematically successful and a soundtrack that sparks emotion when it’s otherwise lacking.
The film’s voice cast is led by Raymond Ochoa who gives a mediocre performance that occasionally gets on the viewer’s nerves, but who also has a neat tenderness in his voice and deliverance. Playing opposite him is Jack Bright as the rowdy and obnoxious human boy who accompanies Ochoa’s character on his journey. Bright, like Ochoa, is mildly annoying, lacks nuance, but has a sweet tenderness that serves the film well. As Ochoa’s father is Jeffrey Wright who by far gives the most nuanced and interesting voice performance and who creates the only truly interesting character in the film.
And as Ochoa’s mother is Frances McDormand who gives a mediocre performance that is nothing but decent. Her performance has no nuance or emotion or excitement. The rest of the voice cast (Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, Marcus Scribner, Maleah Padilla, Steve Zahn, Mandy Freund, Steven Clay Hunter, Dave Boat, Carrie Paff, John Ratzenberger and Calum Mackenzie Grant) all give decent but ultimately forgettable performances. Peter Sohn, the director, also throws in a peculiar but mildly interesting performance as a creepy styracosaurus.
The film’s story and screenplay are just as mediocre and passable as the voice acting with a story that ends as you would expect it, a character dynamic that evolves like you’d expect it, and a plot that seems to repeat itself on end. The screenplay is lousy with dialogue that doesn’t really work and characters that have barely any personality. The characters also appear in groups of three or four simple, boring, and cliche characters, and this happens three times in the film and creates a very repetitive and uncreative feel. A vast majority of characters and scenes also come off as useless to the plot and characters, most notable is the scene with Sohn’s character which is outrageous and silly yet purposeless.
There’s only one thing that really keeps this film alive and that is the visuals and soundtrack, the absolutely stunning visuals and emotional soundtrack. There are a handful of shots throughout the movie used to set the scene with some of the most stunning animation I’ve ever seen. The characters in the film are also undetailed in their animation style which creates an unusual yet interesting contrast. The best part of the animation however is the water scenes, which are so stunningly realistic that they themselves almost make the movie worth watching.
The soundtrack, written by Jeff and Mychael Danna, is also amazing as it underscores the film perfectly and provides emotional ‘umph’ where the screenplay and voice acting fails. The soundtrack’s beautiful stringed instruments and use of crescendos and diminuendos are what make the soundtrack stick out. One scene in which Spot and Arlo are in a field with fireflies is the perfect example of this film’s powerful soundtrack and mixed with the beautiful animation this may be one of my favorite animated scenes of all Pixar films.
This film is one of the weakest Pixar films, but it still has a few elements that are worth watching such as the soundtrack or animation. But on the other hand you could just as well google images of the film and pick up the soundtrack on Spotify and you’d get the same product. But if you come across this film and you have the time, it’s not the worst you could do with 93 minutes.
Best Aspect- The animation and soundtrack
Worst Aspect- The story