What if the purported astroid that destroyed the dinosaurs missed? That basically sets up the premise for Pixar’s newest film The Good Dinosaur, which tells of an alternate storyline in which dinosaurs have evolved more than humans. We follow Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), a wimpy apatosaurus who is completely debilitated by fear. He’s the runt of a litter and, while his two other siblings quickly prove themselves and leave their mark on the family farm, Arlo stumbles time and time again. His Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) is patient with him.
After a storm separates Arlo from his family, leaving him hundreds of miles away from home, he follow’s Poppa’s advice to follow the river to get back. Along the way he meets a “critter,” a human boy named Spot, and the two team up and work together to make the trek back home.
First thing’s first: let’s talk about how beautiful The Good Dinosaur is. The film’s scenery in the woody Pacific Northwest is extraordinary and breathtaking, from the flowing water and drizzling rain to towering trees and luscious fields. Many feared that the Gumby, cartoony-looking characters would distract from the film’s realistic backgrounds, but that is far from the case. The characters and world blend so nicely together that it’s a visual delight. The Good Dinosaur truly is one of Pixar’s best looking films to date.
The story, however, is nothing revolutionary, but that’s ok. The premise of dinosaurs out-evolving humans is an interesting one to explore (although, I really would have loved to see this film set in the modern day to see what that evolutionary track would look like). We see our hero set out on a journey to Clawed-Tooth Mountain, which is vaguely reminiscent of another dino journey to the Great Valley, as he encounters obstacles and nuisances.
Our lead, Arlo, is the best part of the film. He is so completely debilitated by fear that it’s endearing and relatable to some people. You see him struggle to overcome his fears and fail so many times that your heart hurts for the little guy. The strongest elements of The Good Dinosaur are the relationships developed between characters, especially the relationship between Arlo and Poppa and Arlo and Spot. Another highlight is the Tyrannosaurus cattle ranchers, who are downright fun and hilarious.
There are a few scenes, one key scene in each act, that seem to mirror the arc in Disney’s The Lion King. This would be fine; however even the scenery and scenarios are very similar, which makes the comparisons even more substantiated. There is nothing necessarily wrong with these scenes as they are important to the plot, but I feel if the filmmakers reworked these scenes to appear less like “The Lion King,” the film would have benefitted greatly.
The Good Dinosaur shines when it focuses on original elements, but – just like little Arlo – it stumbles whenever it relies on tropes. Overall, the film delivers exactly what its name promises: good. It is a cute, adorable, funny, beautiful looking film, but lacks the depth that could have taken it up a notch.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes