THE GOOD DINOSAUR – A Review by John Strange

By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Imagine if the asteroid whose strike ended the age of dinosaurs had missed the Earth.  This is the premise behind The Good Dinosaur.  How would the dinosaurs have progressed over the next million years?
The film’s main action begins with a family of dinosaurs living on a farm away from everyone else.  Basically they are living on the frontier.  The couple grows corn on this farm.  Their method of plowing and sewing the grain is ingenious.  In their home we are shown three eggs.  Two are roughly the same size and one is huge, easily two or three times the volume of the other two.
The couple watches as the three eggs hatch.  The first are the smaller eggs.  They name the young ones after observing their first actions.  Libby (Maleah Nipay-Padilla) and Buck (Ryan Teeple), the first two born, are your typical kids.  The last born, he of the huge egg, is Arlo (Jack McGraw).  At first it looks like he won’t be able to crack the egg.  Then Buck, running around like the young dino he is, runs into the egg and really cracks the shell.
The top of the shell falls off the egg and the parents (Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand) look down into an empty shell!  When the top of the shell is rolled over, they see little Arlo cowering in the shell.  Gently they get Arlo to come out into the world.
Soon the kids are doing their part in the chores around the farm.  Libby and Buck do a great job while Arlo has to face the daily challenge that is feeding the birds.  Now, I have to admit these birds ARE scary!  They look like primitive ostriches but are meaner than emu’s.  Every day he loads up the basket and everyday he ends up running for his life from them.
Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) despairs of ever doing as well as his siblings.  Over time they each get to follow in their parent’s footsteps and make their “mark” on the corn crib.  Poppa gives him a chance to do something important.  Something is stealing corn from the family.  Arlo watches for the culprit.  When he discovers that the thief is a human boy, he chases him away rather than kill him.  Poppa takes off after the boy to do what Arlo couldn’t.  Arlo follows him.
They follow the tracks down river.  It begins to rain.  They have to find the creature quickly before the tracks are washed away.  Then the worst happens.  A massive flood of water comes crashing down the river.  Poppa pushes Arlo to safety up the ridge above the water.  Sadly, the wall of water takes Poppa away before he, too, can reach safety up the bank.
Arlo sees the boy and gives chase.  The two end up in then water and are swept far downstream.  Arlo wants nothing to do with the boy but the boy continues to try to be friends by bringing different types of food to Arlo.  Finally he hits upon the right food and Arlo devours it.  The two begin to make their way back to Arlo’s home.  Their relationship slowly grows as they journey.
The creatures they encounter during their travels run the gamut from a group of pterodactyls led by Thunderclap (Steve Zahn) who REALLY want to eat the boy to the trio of tyrannosaurus rex’s led by Butch (Sam Elliott) who are searching for their heard of long horns.  I have to say my favorite encounter is with Forrest Woodbush (Peter Sohn).  He looked like a triceratops who has a lot of interesting friends.  Each of his “friends” have tough names (even though they looked sweet and cuddly) except for the red bird named Bruce. 
Forrest wants to “adopt” the boy.  He states that if he can name him then the boy stays with him.  Both Forrest and Arlo begin speaking names at the boy.  When Arlo calls him “Spot”, the boy turns around and runs over to him.  The boy is now named Spot!
The story of Arlo and Spot and their trek home is a good one, full of thrills and chills that will make the kids sit up and cheer.  We see the two build a friendship that is very touching.  The ending of the film is everything I could wish for. 
The Pixar artists have done amazing work the special effects.  The dinosaurs and animals look excellent and very life-like.  The story of Arlo and the boy, Spot, is both touching and exciting.  The ending is everything we ask for in a good family movie, especially one from these filmmakers.
Sadly, the story is not totally new.  It is a variation of one we have seen many times before in films like The Land Before Time.  The only real difference here is in the use of humans.  I really liked the film, I just didn’t love it.
I DID love the short that precedes the feature film, Sanjay’s Super Team.  Sanjay loves the members of the Super Team.  He is watching them on TV when his father attempts to worship at the family’s altar.  The two fight over the volume of the television until Father turns the device off and indicates that the boy should join him in worship.  He takes the boy’s action figure away and sets it on the altar.
The boy’s imagination takes over and we watch the Hindu gods fight Evil with Sanjay’s help.  The boy not only helps defeat the evil being but builds a respect for his gods.  His father is upset with Sanjay’s actions and then Sanjay shows his drawings to his father.  He has added the Hindu gods to his Super Team.  The two now have a common interest.  I think the story is amazing in the way it presents us with a story that comes alive in our imaginations.
The Good Dinosaur will do okay in the theaters and will do very well in the video market.  The kids will enjoy watching it over and over. 
Directed by: Peter Sohn
Cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Jack Bright
MPAA Rating: PG (for peril, action and thematic elements)
Selig Rating: MATINEE
Runtime: 100 Min.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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