Where does this animated film fit in the evolutionary scale?
On this Christmas Eve party, M6 offers two family productions: The Voyage of Arlo at 9:05 p.m., then Scrooge’s Gang and The Lost Lamp Treasure at 10:50 p.m. Is the first one worth a look? Here is the review of First, published when it was released in 2015.
We leave the Arlo trip reassured on one point: the film will be a triumph with families as the holidays approach. Think: the story of a shy and fearful teenage dino (adosaur?), Separated from his family, who will have to find his home with the help of a little wild man. And on arrival become a strong and courageous adult dinosaur after a series of trials and meetings. Rarely has Pixar seen a film so straight to the point, so direct and obvious. Of course, technically, it’s hallucination: the photorealism of the sets is just crazy, we really have the impression that the camera is walking in the forests of the Appalachians, the contrast with the cartoon and flexible characters is strong but rather successful, this is what Scott McCloud calls the “shadowing” effect and it is to better identify with the heroes. But we don’t ask for crazy realism from an animated film. Not only. We ask him for style. Creating a puddle of water reflecting the sun in 3D is certainly a master stroke, but they could have saved themselves the trouble and filmed a real one because the camera only very rarely allows itself madness shots, effects of scale impossible to do in reality. Arlo’s technical slap is also its limit.
The secret to the success of the greatest Pixars lies less in technical concerns than in the perfection of storytelling, of the science of storytelling (review Toy story it is especially to notice that it has aged badly technically). The contrast with Vice versa (finesse, imagination, rhythm, surprise, high concept) is brutal: the previous Pixar is all that The Voyage of Arlo is not. Arlo’s story is made up of déjà vu. From the first act Little house in the meadow with the strong and sententious dad who connects the fortune cookie sentences (“Leave your mark, you deserve it”), we know where the film will take us and how it will end. And to come to its conclusion, Arlo will chain a series of badly sewn meetings, which give the impression of seeing the work in progress. Some scenes are even completely absurd. The passage with the collector clodo dinosaur is a great moment, especially when this character (dubbed in French by Eric Cantona to add WTF) fearful and covered with small animals for protection presents his companions: “This one is Dreambreaker, he is there to protect me from my unrealizable desires” (sic). We will not see this character again in the whole film. A meeting which lasts, which lasts and which serves for something in the end (give a name to the little human) but which suggests that the film is a succession of sketches written on post-its stuck in the middle of the odyssey of Arlo. A scene, a test, a bonus, and we continue.
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Why does Arlo sound so knocked out? The answer is perhaps to be found on the side of its production. In a parallel world, we should have seen a film by Bob peterson (co-director of Up there) in an evolved dinosaur society, which dominates planet Earth in place of man. Unable to end the film on an acceptable conclusion, Peterson got fired and The Good Dinosaur (original title) is a year behind schedule. This isn’t a Pixar first – the last time a film changed directors (in this case, Brenda Chapman) it was on the problematic and wobbly Rebel. It is finally the quasi beginner Peter Sohn who took over the project, keeping the idea of uchronia, under-exploited and which only serves to justify the simultaneous presence on the screen of a dino and a human (and which will also please American creationists who believe that man lived at the same time as the dinosaurs). We repeat: Arlo is going to make a triumph anyway; it is easily consumed, its purpose is absolutely obvious, its message completely clear (“Face your fear and you will grow up”, to compare with the superb subtlety of Vice versa which will have left many children on the wayside), without ever second degree or innuendo. And, very little incidentally, dinosaurs sell (hello Jurassic World). The few sublime shots at the end, which we will not spoil, do not change the overall impression. Quickly consumed, quickly forgotten, The Voyage of Arlo recalls that Pixar is capable of the best and the less good.
Trailer of the Arlo trip :