Everybody knows that the best types of movies are dinosaur movies. It’s science. Add Pixar into the equation and you know you’ll walk out in a fragile state. So I walked into The Good Dinosaur armed with waterproof mascara and tissues, and of course, I still left with tear stains and a hard look in the mirror at my life. I had high expectations going into this film, having followed its abnormally long and tedious production with heart eyes and bated breath all the way through. All that waiting paid off. Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur is a heartwarming, ugly-cry inducing combination of some of the animation house’s best visuals ever and a story that replaces Pixar’s usual approach to storytelling with something subtle and quietly resonating. The film answers a question we’ve all asked ourselves, whether we want to admit it or not: what if the dinosaurs were never wiped out? Could we keep them as pets? Would we live peacefully with them? Would dinosaurs truly rule the earth?
The answer to this question is…well, sort of. In Pixar’s mind, dinosaurs have become what people were 2,000 years ago or so. The main character is a fearful Apatosaurus named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), the youngest of three in a family of farmers. Sounds strange? It is, but in the best way. Little Arlo is anxious and uneasy, but he wants to make his mark on the world and impress his father (voiced by Jeffrey Wright). When Arlo is suddenly left miles from home without his father, he thinks all is lost in the world until he befriends Spot, a young human boy (voiced by Jack Bright). In this boy-and-his-dog story, Arlo takes the role of the boy and Spot the dog. Arlo is faced with everything he has ever feared as he and Spot cross a beautiful and unforgiving landscape that becomes a villain in itself over the course of the film. They meet a cast of characters ranging from adorable to funky to just plain strange; a family of T-Rexes taking the roles of ranchers herding their livestock over the plains, a group of vicious stormchasing pterodactyls, and my personal favorite: an off-kilter Triceratops who keeps various woodland creatures as pets.
Even in The Good Dinosaur’s greatest moments, sometimes the story lags with scenes that are enjoyable but mostly unimportant. Early in the second act of the film there is a sequence that is almost trippy enough to rival Dumbo’s “Pink Elephants on Parade.” Did it do anything for the plot? No. Was it slightly uncomfortable yet highly entertaining to watch? Oh yes.
Pixar has long given audiences profound nostalgia, curiousity, and a sense of wonder and humor that cannot be replicated. Even though their newest adventure may not always succeed to rise to the expectations they have always held themselves to, it is a wonderful journey in itself.
The Good Dinosaur is now playing in theaters everywhere in 2D and Real D 3D.