Movie Review: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ Helps Toddlers Stamp Out Fear of Life!
Movie Review: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ Helps Toddlers Stamp Out Fear of Life!

With Pixar, you always get good quality. But quality doesn’t necessarily always mean good taste.

In “The Good Dinosaur,” Pixar puts plastic-y apatosauruses in a panoramic, hyper-realistic Rocky Mountain setting. I say no to this!

Because what do we end up seeing? Talking, plastic green kiddie-toy dinos (like, from McDonald’s) that work on a realistic farm out West, like they’re in a cinematically gorgeous Sam Peckinpah Western or something.

(L–R) Momma, Poppa, Arlo, Buck, Libby at the farm's silo, in Disney/Pixar's
(L–R) Momma, Poppa, Arlo, Buck, Libby at the farm’s silo, in Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur.” (2015 Disney/Pixar)

Isn’t that kind of massive incongruity the very definition of kitsch? Not the dinos-working-the-land part. (Everyone knows dinosaurs were excellent farmers.) I’m talking about the hyper-realistic (for a cartoon) landscapes—peopled with plastic toys! That’s just dino-sized kitsch!

But it matters not. Because it’s a toddler movie. It’s just that “Dinosaur” is, after all, a Pixar film, and therefore fun enough to keep an adult awake, and so I personally object to this kitschy aesthetic of these green toys in my moviegoing experience. The bottom line is, though, that it’s quite a good small-child film.

On Beyond Asteroid

“The Good Dinosaur” tells us a story about the logical outcomes of the Earth not getting hit by a giant asteroid—dinosaurs would therefore still rule, of course.

The large herbivore types own farms, you see, and they till the land using their own heads as plowshares, irrigate the crops by sucking up water and spitting vast quantities of it on the cornfields, and collect large, dino-chicken eggs.  

Arlo Apatosaurus

This particular dino family we’re getting to know, has a little knobby-kneed litter-runt named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), who’s main problem in life is he’s terrified of everything.

"The Good Dinosaur" tells the story of Arlo, a lively Apatosaurus with a big heart who sets out on a remarkable journey, gaining an unlikely companion along the way—a  human boy. (©2015 Disney/Pixar)
“The Good Dinosaur” tells the story of Arlo, a lively apatosaurus with a big heart that sets out on a remarkable journey, gaining an unlikely companion along the way—a human boy. (2015 Disney/Pixar)

He goes out for some man-time with dad (Jeffrey Wright), who gets swept away in a flood. On his own now, little Arlo has to learn to survive, and he’s got to get himself back to the garden.

‘The Good Dinosaur’ will, to borrow another lyric from a Woodstock band, “Teach the Children Well.”

Tribulation Trip

On this wee walk-about, Arlo runs into a tiny tot named Spot, who appears to have crawled out of “The Croods” movie.

Spot, the super-toddler, on a rock, in Disney/Pixar's
Spot, the super-toddler, on a rock, in Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” directed by Peter Sohn. (2015 Disney/Pixar)

By the look it, Spot’s got to be the male twin of that Neanderthal family’s tiniest girl child, except without the topknot—same fearless growling, rabid temper, and the ability to crawl the 100-yard dash faster than Usain Bolt.

The cult of Pterodactyls, Arlo and Spot in Disney/Pixar's
The cult of pterodactyls, Arlo, and Spot in Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur.” (2015 Disney/Pixar)

They endure all manner of hardships! Floods, famine, hail, antediluvian scary red cobras, an eccentric cross-eyed triceratops, and a gaggle of purple pterodactyls that belong to a cult and and have a hankering to have Spot for dinner.

An young Apatosaurus named Arlo must face his fears, and three impressive T-Rexes in Disney/Pixar's
(R) A young apatosaurus named Arlo must face his fears, and three impressive T-Rexes in Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur.” Featuring the voices of A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, and Sam Elliott as the T-Rexes. (2015 Disney/Pixar)

Finally, they run into a Pecos Bill-like T. Rex, who’s a cowboy with two child-rexes. Yep. Herd bison, they do. The bison look very real. Pecos Rex … not so much. He’s voiced by Sam Elliott, taking a break from TV commercial voice-overs about trucks made exclusively for cowboys.

Spot and Arlo in Disney/Pixar's
Spot and Arlo herding bison in Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur.” (2015 Disney/Pixar)

Thoughts?

Well Arlo matures, loses his fear, travels back home, and drops off Spot with a family of humans they meet on the way, in the film’s most emotionally poignant part.

(L–R) Spot and Arlo. An Apatosaurus makes an unlikely human friend in Disney/Pixar's
(L–R) Spot and Arlo. An apatosaurus makes an unlikely human friend in Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” directed by Peter Sohn. (2015 Disney/Pixar)

There’s more than a little “Lord Of The Rings” there—Frodo’s taking leave of his hobbit companions at the Grey Havens. And there’s more than a little of LOTR’s Shire-refrain, that appears to have been borrowed, in the score.

Spot and Arlo finally coming to the journey's end, in Disney/Pixar's
Spot and Arlo finally coming to the journey’s end, in Disney/Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur.” (2015 Disney/Pixar)

As mentioned, the nature realism is pretty. Nice nature. Nice mountain landscapes, nice forests, streams, rivers, clouds, and flora.

Also as mentioned, it’s the oversimplified cartoon-y fauna running around in all that real-looking flora, that rankles. The kids’ll love it though. “The Good Dinosaur” will, to borrow another lyric from a Woodstock band, “Teach the Children Well.”

What will it teach them? To not be selfish by initially trying to take Spot back to the dino-farm instead of letting him assimilate into early human culture, for one, but ultimately to show that hardship and a tribulation trip through the scary wilderness results in a tempering of character, and the ability to conquer fear. Which is quite a gift, given the level of scariness existing in the world today.

‘The Good Dinosaur’
Director: Peter Sohn
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Steve Zahn, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, John Ratzenberger

Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes 

Rating: PG
Date: Nov. 25

Rated 
3 stars out of 5

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