Pixar has set its bar so high that a sweet film like The Good Dinosaur suffers for not being innovative or unique. But it is entertaining, especially for kids, and is executed with the seemingly effortless perfection that marks every film from the studio that brought us Toy Story, The Incredibles, Up, and Inside Out.
Our hero this time is a young dinosaur named Arlo, a timid soul who doesn’t have the courage or command of his Poppa. That doesn’t mean his father and mother don’t believe in him; they do, but the pluck and bravery Arlo needs to survive can only come from within, as he learns through his experiences with friends and foes after being separated from his family.
Arlo’s major growing experience occurs when he discovers and befriends a young cave-boy whom he names Spot. Through their adventures with Mother Nature and a variety of predators they not only bond but come to rely on one another.
The visual appeal of The Good Dinosaur is tremendous. It pictures life on earth if dinosaurs never went extinct and came to inhabit our planet as we know it. The majestic beauty of untouched land, majestic mountains, rivers, and waterfalls are exquisitely rendered. But it’s the characters that really matter in a story of this kind, and they come to life with the same care and attention to detail as the settings.
Grownups may groan at some of the platitudes uttered by Arlo’s Poppa and other characters the young Apatosaurus encounters along his journey… but it’s unlikely that young viewers will regard them as clichés. Director Peter Sohn treats these moments in Meg LeFauve’s screenplay with complete sincerity, which should win over the young and young-at-heart. Parents won’t be bored and kids should lap up The Good Dinosaur; that makes it ideal family entertainment this holiday season.
The feature is preceded by a short subject called Sanjay’s Super Team, based on filmmaker Sanjay Patel’s memories of a boyhood culture clash with his father. Like most Pixar shorts, it’s a treat.