The Good Dinosaur is a lushly animated and beautiful to behold on a theater-sized screen. It’s also great, wholesome entertainment for children and families.
Let’s start with that latter bit of praise for Pixar Studio’s latest animated endeavor which hits screens Wednesday (Nov. 25) nationwide. The studio that Steve Jobs and John Lasseter built and eventually sold to Mickey Mouse’s executive minions has always brokered in family friendly entertainment as its stock and trade.
But even in those seemingly innocent endeavors such as Toy Story, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, among others, the filmmakers and animators always included choice morsels for the adults to chew on. That’s not even the case with The Good Dinosaur.
That’s great for children because they’re going to go ga-ga over the beautifully animated animals regardless. For adults? Not so much. Directed by Pixar vet Peter Sohn, who worked on The Incredibles and Ratatouille, from a script from Meg LaFauve, the team forgot to include the adults in on the mirth and merrymaking. That’s especially unusual given this is a coming-of-age story about a young Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa).
The Good Dinosaur exists on an Earth where the huge asteroid that caused their extinction never fell to Earth, thus allowing the animals to develop their own culture and eventually meet humans. For the Apatosaurus family to which Arlo belongs, that means they’re farmers. Arlo, the baby and runt of his parent’s brood, has difficulty finding his way in the family business.
While his brother and sister make their marks, Arlo still has yet to impress his father enough to be able to do the same. When he’s given a task that allows him to do just that, Arlo fails. Again, his father attempts to guide his son. Instead tragedy strikes and Arlo finds himself stranded away from home.
Arlo soon finds himself relying on the survival instincts of a human boy and together they work to return the dinosaur home – developing a close relationship along the way.
It’s the type of story children 10 and younger will lose themselves. In that regard, it reminds of Cars, but it has some of the same problems in that the dinos, who all speak with a Western accent (the views in the film were inspired by Wyoming and the fossil record is rich in that area), but ultimately the audience will ask why?
They will, however, will appreciate animation that looks as if the magicians at Pixar have seamlessly blended the real with the imaginary to create a piece of art. Most, however, will wish The Good Dinosaur’s narrative matched those visuals.
Movie: The Good Dinosaur
Director: Peter Sohn
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliot
Studio: Walt Disney Studio/Pixar
Rated: PG for peril, action and thematic elements
Running time: 100 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com