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Film Review: 'The Good Dinosaur'

Chandler Golan |
November 26, 2015 | 3:40 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Arlo and his pesky new human friend (Pixar).
Arlo and his pesky new human friend (Pixar).
A story of family and fear held up in development for over half a decade, Pixar’s "The Good Dinosaur" is a safe, sweet adventure for all ages.

With coming-of-age elements, moral obstacles perfect for children and slapstick moments that older audiences can appreciate, the film stays within the bounds of conventional movie-making unlike its elder sibling, "Inside Out".

As the previews detailed, the opening shot is of the famed asteroid that caused a mass extinction during the Cretaceous period. In this story, however, it misses the earth entirely and life goes on for the dinosaurs inhabiting the planet. The narrative then slides to an idyllic dinosaur farm where an Apatosaurus couple watches its children hatch. The young dinosaurs grow up amidst typical family problems such as competition, bullying and an underlying theme of overcoming fear.

When the patriarch is washed away in a freak storm, the youngest Arlo is tasked with stepping up and helping his family survive the winter. Expectedly, he is whisked away and forced to journey back to his home to ‘make his mark’ and prove to his family that he is worthy of accomplishing something great. Along his way, he befriends a pesky human child.

If the seemingly directionless start makes you feel distanced, there is dazzling photorealistic animation and a host of quirky, strangely adorable creatures to stay enraptured.

If the characters and plot don’t cement themselves as Pixar’s finest, the digital landscapes and macro shots will fill the slot. From raindrops on a cornstalk to a riverbed of shimmering copper stones, flashes of imagery that highlight the beauty of the various seasons in the Midwest flood the film. Even the depictions of frequent thunderstorms deliver stunning scenery amidst the plot’s turmoil.

The oddball critters that guest appear on a regular basis provide more than just laughs, too; their curious, original construction lends the movie humor and innovation. Pixar’s legacy of simultaneously entertaining the entire population spread is easily upheld with their addition.

"The Good Dinosaur"’s narrative doesn’t break ground in any noticeable manner, but it doesn’t seem to want to. It’s occasionally enthralling yet empathetic, nostalgic and fresh. There are many opportunities to laugh and cry and hardly any that disconnect the audience. Perhaps the first half hour is hard to get excited about and the protagonist appears frustratingly weak, but watching him mature is what alleviates the same feeling of dissatisfaction we have in ourselves.

The film has its nearly inexcusable moments of peculiarity, but it’s those that keep us paying close attention. And when that leads to a more immersed experience, it shouldn’t matter what caused it.

"The Good Dinosaur" opens Nov. 25.

Reach Staff Reporter Chandler Golan here.



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