The Good Dinosaur Review

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By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Not only are animated films created to entertain and to tell a story, but, more often than not, there are lessons to be learned about life. In Frozen, we looked at two sisters and how they each dealt with the life circumstances they had been dealt. We looked at a sibling relationship and what underlies how we act when put in particular situations and scenarios. But we also learned the power of family and the love family members have for one another.  Inside Out took us through our childhoods once again, and reminded us of love and loss and what it meant to grow up. With Disney Pixar’s latest film, The Good Dinosaur, we once again look at growing up but from a different perspective.

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Eons ago, an asteroid struck Earth and ended the reign of dinosaurs. Yet, here, our story evolves on the thought line that the asteroid actually missed the Earth. We’re still in the age of dinosaurs, where Apatosaur, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) is born, along with older brother Buck (Ryan Teeple) and sister Libby (Mileah Nipay-Padilla). Buck and Libby take to their new world, while little Arlo is afraid of… pretty much everything. Initially the family is endeared with his fear, but as the children age, with Buck and Libby making contributions to their lives, Arlo remains afraid, feeling like an outcast. After tragedy strikes, Arlo finds himself alone, far from his family. He meets a young, human boy, feral by nature, who he names Spot (Jack Bright), whom he befriends as he looks to find his way back home to his family.

The Good Dinosaur has had its share of production problems, after being in development for six years and going through two different directors, an entire voice cast recasting and a repurposing of the entire script. These aspects are not left unnoticed in the film. The story we are left with is one we are all familiar with: young child loses their way and must find their way back home. It’s been done over and over in animated films, yet her it’s a little different. There’s a role reversal in the form that Arlo is more like the human and Spot is more like the animal. Yet, within each, they find strengths that they are looking for, particularly Arlo. With his fears, he has someone strong in Spot, who appears to have no fear. And, with Spot, a young boy who has no seeming family, he finds that companionship, that family atmosphere in Arlo. The story evolves as Arlo learns about how hard life can be and having to face what is ahead of you instead of running away. He also learns the value of companionship and what it means to love others on a deeper level. This is a film about life, in all shapes and forms, the highs and the lows, the laughter and the tears.

While Arlo is the main protagonist, he isn’t given the complexity of many previous animated protagonists. Maybe that is by design, as young children, bordering on the verge of adolescence, yet to display the complexity of adults. But this also leaves the character a little more flat, a little less polished, and, for us, maybe not fully immersing ourselves into Arlo. Fear predominates his life through at least the first half of the film, so it’s hard to really engage a character who isn’t as three dimensional as we would like. However, once we get the introduction of Spot, a dynamic forms and we’re able to see these characters play off of each other, and grow accordingly. Spot, devoid of any dialogue outside of howls and other sounds, displays so much emotion through his body language that a story is told within the main context with just his physicality. And such a wonderful story it is to watch, full of humor, heroics and sadness all at the same time. And when we get towards the end of the film, we see these two as an inseparable family in their own right, who have grown on this journey, that there is true sadness with how things actually play out.

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The Good Dinosaur incorporates story telling elements from various films such as The Lion King and Homeward Bound. And though it isn’t taboo to take elements, when you see them used almost verbatim, it tends to take away some of the emotional element the film is striving for. It’s not hard to see where the story is going early on, yet it’s how the characters interact and the bond that is formed which makes this film all the more worthwhile.  Add in the fact that the visual backgrounds in the film looks like they were snapped live by a National Geographic photographer and then these animated characters were thrown into the picture just adds to the beauty of the film. Honestly, The Good Dinosaur has some of the most gorgeous scenery ever witnessed in an animated film. Children and adults will find something to love in The Good Dinosaur, and while it may not be the best Pixar film, it will definitely leave an emotional imprint on you. We can be thankful this dinosaur escaped the asteroid extinction.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


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