I thought I would try something different for family movie night. Being we’ve just had the Thanksgiving holiday I thought I would talk a little bit about two films in the theaters and give you some insight into both if they are worth checking out. I will say outright both The Peanuts Movie and Good Dinosaur are excellent films and you can’t go wrong seeing either. In fact, I recommend taking the kids to both.
The Good Dinosaur is Pixar’s latest offering and it is something the studio has never done before. In many ways it feels like the old school Disney films like Dumbo or Bambi. It’s certainly as breathtaking as both of those films. Director Peter Sohn is able to capture a photo-realism in the backgrounds and world building that is astonishing. But even more than that are the characters, particularly the human boy Spot who I loved.
The film tells the story of a runt dinosaur named Arlo who gets separated from his family and has to find a way home. It’s a simple narrative in that regard but I don’t mind a story arc I’ve seen before if it is so well executed. In this story the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs never hit the earth and so the dinosaurs have progressed and are farmers and have shelters. Little Arlo is ruled by his fears. He’s even scared of feeding the chickens every day. His father is trying to get him to conquer those fears but it takes the journey home to make that happen.
When he gets lost from his family Arlo meets a little human boy named Spot who behaves more like a dog than a human. That might sound strange but it works so well. I loved Spot. He is sweet, funny and brave. There’s a scene with Spot and Arlo where they communicate their loss and family situation which should get even the hardest viewer tearing up. As they find their way home there are obstacles and challenges, which kept me engaged and we even get a feel of an old Western at times.
The Good Dinosaur’s probably greatest flaw is coming out the same year as Inside Out, which is a masterpiece. However, the two films couldn’t be more different so the comparison is kind of moot. I say see both and enjoy the luxury of two original Pixar films in one year. It’s certainly been like Christmas for me!
The Peanuts Movie
I was extremely skeptical of The Peanuts Movie going into it. Translations of the animation of my youth haven’t exactly been great (Smurfs, Chipmunks etc) and Blue Sky studios hasn’t made any films I’ve really loved. Their best film up to this point being Rio, which is fine but not great. However, I am happy to inform you that The Peanuts Movie turned out to be a wonderful film. I really loved it.
The first standout in The Peanuts Movie is the animation. What they were able to do using hybrid CG/2D animation techniques is groundbreaking. It looks deep and textured like CG but still has the flat feel of the Peanuts shorts/comic strips we all know and love. As an animation addict this look was a total delight. I saw it in 3D and it was even more immersive and beautiful. It makes me excited for future films that will hopefully use this technique to create new and different looking animated films in the future (The Little Prince coming out looks to be doing it too).
But art can only get you so far, the rest of the film has to match it and The Peanuts Movie does. We get exactly the story I wanted out of Charlie Brown and company. It’s a simple story about Charlie trying to gain the confidence to talk to the red headed girl. He gets a book from Lucy about how to be a winner and reads War and Peace, learns how to dance and flies a kite, and it is all a total delight. It’s funny, endearing, sweet, and takes the worries of childhood seriously just as Peanuts always has. I also loved Snoopy and the Red Baron going on their adventures!
I was so worried going into The Peanuts Movie they would make it all hip and cool but they didn’t. They kept the cast free from celebrity voices and used actual children. Christophe Beck uses the Vince Guaraldi music as inspiration for his score and there are only a few songs added but I thought they worked. Director Steve Martino should be extremely proud and I’m so grateful they involved Craig Schulz and Bryan Schulz as producers and writers to keep the film true to Charles Schulz wonderful vision. It’s an excellent film.
So really you can’t go wrong seeing either Good Dinosaur or The Peanuts Movie. They are both superbly animated, with good stories and great characters. It truly is a great time to be an animation fan!
If you see one or both let me know what you thought. Thanks so much!