Kyle J. Steenblik

The Good Dinosaur is a Great Animated Western

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MV5BMTA1NzAwOTkyOTJeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDI3MzMzODYx._V1__SX1377_SY719_The Good Dinosaur
Directed by: Peter Sohn
Screenplay by: Meg LeFauve
Story by: Peter Sohn, Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann, Bob Peterson
Starring: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, A. J. Buckley, Steve Zahn, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Maleah Padilla
Running time 100 minutes
Rated PG for peril, action and thematic elements

4 1/2 stars out of 565 million years ago, a tiny asteroid bumped into a bigger asteroid, which smashed into a large asteroid.  This massive asteroid was knocked out of the peaceful asteroid belt and was sent sailing toward a small blue planet.  This massive asteroid hurtled toward the unsuspecting planet and its inhabitants and one cool night it zipped past doing nothing at all to the massive dinosaurs that dominated this planet.  Millions of years later these dinosaurs still ruled the world, in fact, they had also learned the civilized skills of agriculture.  One Apatosaurus family has a nice little farm beside a river in a valley under fang-tooth Mountain where Poppa (Jeffrey Wright), Momma (Frances McDormand), Buck (Marcus Scribner), Libby (Maleah Nipay-Padilla) and Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), are all working to make their marks.  Poppa and Mama built the farm, and a grain silo keep the critters away from their corn.  Buck learned to clear trees from the field, Libby learned to plow, and Arlo is afraid of the chickens.

For Arlo to earn his mark Poppa tasked him with catching and exterminating the critter, a terrifying human named Spot (Jack Bright), who has been eating their corn.  When Arlo fails to follow through, and lets the human go free, Poppa and Arlo chase after him, but in the canyons they are trapped by a massive storm, and Arlo almost doesn’t make it home.  When the human returns, Arlo chases him off the farm where they both fall into the raging river and are washed downstream, far from home.  Now they have to rely on each other to get back home, as they form a friendship that can only be found between a dinosaur and his pet.

The Good Dinosaur is a fantastic twist to a fairly traditional western, and a journey home story, mixed with the ole’ man’s best friends, in this universe Dinosaurs have evolved in intelligence to develop agriculture.  I found this departure from our reality into this alternate universe a terrific and playful turn, even if it did raise a myriad of practical questions that were never answered.  In the treasure-trove of visual riches in this film, the backgrounds are so breathtaking that I had a hard time believing that these landscapes were animated the same way the talking dinosaurs were.  Each step Pixar takes in advancing their unique style of animation seems to leave me awestruck when I think back to the rougher days of Toy Story, whose animation now shows its age.

As for the story, Pixar is continuing their trend of creating a blend of classic stories, with new and playful twists.  The twist here, as previously mentioned, is that Spot, the human, is the pet, almost doglike, but unmistakably primitive human.  If this had been any other animation studio I would be instantly worried that they would be unable to translate human emotion onto anthropomorphized animals, not to mention extinct animals.  However, this is the animation studio that managed this feat on toys, robots, rats, fish, and monsters, so using talking dinosaurs to make us cry proved to be no problem.  This is a good time to mention, anyone that is reluctant to cry in a theatre, the 3D glasses provide a useful shield to hide your shame.  Without giving away the ghost, this one absolutely has what it takes make everyone but the most callous of souls cry.

There are more than enough trilling moments in this film to keep both children, parents, and childless adults fully entertained.  One of the crowd favorites involved ingesting rotting peaches that appeared to be harvesting some form of hallucinogenic fungus.  I am quite positive the reasons both adults and children laughed at this scene were very different.  Somehow, I feel like that should be a significant enough selling point for the most indecisive viewer.

I do want to point out that I did not begin this review by saying Pixar did it again, but, really, they did.

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