The Good Dinosaur

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Pixar has done it yet again.
★★★½
Movie Review #1,038

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Walt Disney Pictures
Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family
1 hour, 33 minutes
Rated PG (peril, action and thematic elements)
Released November 25, 2015
Directed by Peter Sohn
Original concept and development by Bob Peterson
Story by Peter Sohn & Erik Benson & Meg LeFauve & Kelsey Mann & Bob Peterson
Screenplay by Meg LeFauve
Starring the voices of Jeffrey Wright, Ryan Temple, Jack McGraw, Marcus Scribner, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, Frances McDormand, and Maleah Nipay-Padilla

The age communism that permeates each and every Pixar movie gets me every time. Whether you’re eight, eighteen, twenty-eight, forty-eight, or eighty-eight, you’re guaranteed to love the film no less than whoever is sitting next to you. 2015 marks the first occasion in which Pixar has produced two movies in a single year. The first, “Inside Out”, was a hard act to follow. I might go as far as to say that it’s their best film yet. However, “The Good Dinosaur” doesn’t fall behind as much as we might worry. It’s still as fabulous as nearly any other Pixar film.

The story here concerns Arlo, the youngest of three siblings. He’s a dinosaur, perhaps a brontosaurus, born small and always much shorter than his two older siblings. His father wants to raise him to make his mark, so to speak. Actually, this isn’t just a figurative mark: the family holds a tradition that whenever one of them has done something that they are especially proud of, he or she stamps his or her foot in mud and prints it on one specific tree. For a while, Arlo remains the only member of the family who has not yet earned his mark.

Arlo’s physique is a manifestation of his inner physique: he’s seemingly afraid of everything. Even in his daily task of carrying corn into the field, he is afraid of a rooster that guards the rest of the harvest. His father feels bad for him, but at the same time, he wants to change him. He tries to rid Arlo’s fear by taking him into the wilderness during a thunderstorm, but accidentally falls into the river and dies. The impact of this event on Arlo is tantamount to the rest of the story.

“The Good Dinosaur” transitions then into both a western epic and a fable. Arlo eventually ends up lost from home, thanks to the antics of a baby boy named Spot. Arlo doesn’t like Spot at first. He’s afraid of him, and then, after ending up lost in the wilderness, he becomes infuriated with him. Spot, however, becomes his only companion during his journey, as Arlo realizes that they have a few common bonds: Both of them are out on their own, separated from their respective families. What’s more, neither one of them is fit to survive in this area they aren’t familiar with.

Pixar’s newest movie exhibits beautiful animation to illustrate their journey on as massive a scope as computer animations could ever capture. That it’s animated, that it has dinosaurs, or that it’s not even 100 minutes long, doesn’t keep us from getting lost in the sensation of a sprawling western epic. At the same time, it possesses a strong message, that fear is natural and therefore cannot be suppressed, but we become stronger when we face it. Pixar has once again eliminated the stigma of kids’ animated movies. Its message is as valuable to adults as it is to kids.

We grow to sincerely care about these characters. Even if they’re of a species that we have never stood face-to-face with, they do resemble the human race. The third act is extremely poignant up until the last minute, but even so, it fails to deliver a proper conclusion. “The Good Dinosaur” clocks to roughly half the length of any non-animated western epic, and that’s fine. But surely another scene or two to end the movie couldn’t have hurt.

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