On the heels of Disney/Pixar’s contemplative tale “Inside Out” comes a film that looks outward and braves the externals. “The Good Dinosaur” aims to be epic and in some ways achieves its goals. Expansive. Thrilling. Cinematic. All are terms best used to describe the look of “The Good Dinosaur” rather than its lean storyline.
Technically speaking, it’s a stellar piece of animation. It almost serves as a travel documentary featuring the great Northwest and in 3-D it delights the senses. It’s expansive and breathtaking. The premise is interesting, but the story bobs and weaves through familiar territory that even the youngest viewers will recognize.
“The Good Dinosaur” speculates on what would happen if the comet that doomed dinosaurs simply whizzed past the earth and allowed for a world where man and dinosaurs coexisted. It features an apatosaurus named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) who is thrust into a harsh and dangerous landscape after being separated from his family and losing his father (Jeffrey Wright) to a raging river.
Alone in the wild, Arlo meets an unusual human travel companion who he names Spot (Jack Bright). Spot doesn’t speak and has more in common with a wolf pup than a cute little human. Nonetheless the two find common ground and a common language. They help each other through dicey times on the trail and share a few touching moments. In one of the film’s more trippy moments, they even hallucinate together on some exotic fruit found in the wild.
Arlo encounters a trio of terrifying pterodactyls led by Thunderclap (Steve Zahn). When he isn’t dodging close encounters with nature’s most fascinating animals, he and Spot are trying to get home. Not all animals have it in for Arlo and Spot. They meet up with a T-Rex named Butch (Sam Elliott) and his family who point them in the right direction.
Peril is everywhere in “The Good Dinosaur.” Exposed to the elements, Arlo and Spot are constantly in danger and on the wrong end of the food chain. It doesn’t help that young Arlo is afraid of his own shadow. Argo is forced to dig deep and in the process transforms from a fearful runt into a capable and eager young dinosaur ready to make his mark on the world.
“The Good Dinosaur” isn’t one of those Pixar films that appeals to both adults and children. This time the film feels more Disney than Pixar, appealing mainly to the youngsters. Even the rendering of Arlo in all his bright greenness is Disneyesque.
Sensitive kids and children younger than 5 years old might be overwhelmed by the relentless scenes of peril. Older kids will fare just fine. “The Good Dinosaur” is worth your time, but with its story flaws it’s not destined to be a Pixar classic.