The Good Dinosaur

 

Disney•Pixar

 

Rating: PG

 

Reason for the Rating: Peril, action and thematic elements

 

Plot Summary: A caveboy and a dinosaur become friend while on a life-changing adventure.

 

PopFam Recommends: Don't go in expecting anything on the same level as Inside Out or Finding Nemo - but this is a movie your younger children will enjoy.

 

I have to admit it...I was not excited about seeing this movie and only went because I had to see it. Don't get me wrong, I usually enjoy animated films, and have readily gone to see just about every Disney and Pixar movie made. But this one, about dinosaurs? How interesting and entertaining could it be? The tagline didn't do much for drawing me in: "What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?" Nope. Not biting. And the trailers? Uh...nope.

 

But here's what I discovered: The story is about Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a young Apatosaurus who is afraid of everything. He's terrorized by the chickens on his family farm (yes, his family lives in a house, of sorts, and farms corn. Apparently if the asteroid hadn't hit earth, herbivores would have become farmers), and intimidated by lightening bugs. So you can imagine his fear when Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) tells him to catch and kill the creature who's been stealing their winter's supply of corn. Arlo is horrified when he actually catches the culprit-- something he's never seen before. A boy (Jack Bright).

 

When Arlo proves to be unable to kill the boy, Poppa takes Arlo to hunt down the boy and finish the job himself. While on their journey, an unexpected thunderstorm causes a flash flood, washing his father away. Later, when Arlo finds the boy in the family's corn silo, he chases him off their land and Arlo himself gets caught in a flood and washed way, way, way down the river. Lost and alone.

 

But Arlo isn't really alone. Much to his initial irritation, the boy has followed Arlo and seems to be taking care of him. He finds him giant lizards and humongous beetles to eat (which an Apatosaurus would never allow to enter his mouth), and saves Arlo's life when his leg is trapped under a boulder. While Arlo is initially angry with the boy, their shared adventure creates a bond, a friendship, which Arlo comes to treasure. Enough so, that Arlo protects the boy in a way he would never have before imagined.

 

In a turn of nature (as we know it, due to the asteroid and all), the dinosaurs are more domesticated than humans. While the good dinosaurs we meet are farmers and ranchers (there are a few bad dino's, but they don't have an occupation, except opportunity), the human's are like dogs. The boy, who is basically Arlo's pet and is ultimately named "Spot," walks on all fours and howls and whines to communicate, and uses his nose to track food and other animals. Kind of like a young Tarzan.

 

While this is not Pixar's finest work, it wasn't awful. The story didn't do a lot for me (except remind me a touch of The Lion King in certain elements), but the animation was amazing. Spectacular. Brilliant. There were some scenes where it's virtually impossible to tell whether the trees, river, and mountains are animated or real. The detail was remarkable. Did I already say amazing? It was truly the best part of the movie.

 

For a young child though, the movie would be nearly perfect. There are intense moments, like when the dino-birds try to eat Spot, but overall it's a sweet movie with a simple plot that children will follow and enjoy. And really, a movie like this is all about the kids and has nothing to do with us sophisticated and complex adults who have been able to develop due to an asteroid that hit the earth 65 million years ago.

 

Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:

 

• Arlo was afraid of chickens, lightening bugs, and that he would never "make his mark." What are your fears?

 

• This movie asks the question, "What if the asteroid never hit the earth?" What is one thing you would change if you could turn back time?

 

• In the cartoon shown before The Good Dinosaur, the boy daydreams of some gods acting like superheroes. What do you think of that? Explain.

 

--JW

 

Note: All product-related graphics in this article are standard publicity/promotional shots and are owned by their respective publisher.

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