ByJames McDonald, writer at
James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.
James McDonald

An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.

Disney/Pixar’s movies have never disappointed. With the mild exception of “Cars” and “Cars 2,” talking, mechanical automobiles just don’t have the same appeal as verbalizing, humorous dolls in “Toy Story,” or the lovable and playful “WALL·E,” or in the case of their latest feature, a young dinosaur named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) who overcomes his deepest, darkest fears to save his best friend Spot (Jack Bright).

The story is told from that of an alternate timeline, basically, what if the massive asteroid that impacted earth 66 million years ago and which scientists claim, caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, passed us by and missed us altogether? That’s where the story picks up. Arlo, the youngest dinosaur in his family, lives with his Momma (Frances McDormand), Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) and two siblings, Libby (Maleah Nipay-Padilla) and Buck (Marcus Scribner). While Libby and Buck have matured and developed over the years, Arlo still sleeps with his Momma and is afraid of everything, from baby chickens to fireflies.

With winter fast-approaching, Poppa realizes that there is a critter sneaking into their silo at night, diminishing their food supply so he puts Arlo in charge of taking care of it but when the critter appears to be that of an orphaned young boy named Spot, Arlo can’t bring himself to kill him. Instead, he tries to chase him off but when Poppa sees this, he gets mad at Arlo for letting him escape and they both give chase. Along the riverbank, a storm quickly moves in and a flash flood causes the canyon to be submerged in water, and while Poppa manages to get Arlo to safety, he is washed away by a freak wave.

With his Poppa gone, Arlo and his family struggle to manage their land but one day he hears Spot in the silo, eating their food again, and gives chase, blaming him for his father’s death. Both of them accidentally fall into the river and are washed away through rapids and waterfalls where Arlo is knocked unconscious but when he wakes up, he realizes he is far from home and against all odds, must try to overcome all of his fears and make his way back to his family.

Naturally, he and Spot become friends and together, form an unbreakable bond that is tested repeatedly. The message throughout, is that no matter what life throws at you, with your best friend by your side, nothing is impossible. And who better to tell this story than Pixar? My favorite Pixar movie is “Up” and it worked so well because we were introduced to the central characters early on and in the first few minutes, one of them dies, letting the audience know that while the movie may indeed be very funny in parts and full of colorful and vibrant characters, it is still set in a world where people die, can hurt, and also love. “The Good Dinosaur” follows this path and with Poppa’s death early on in the movie, we realize that nobody is exempt, and that it could happen to any one of the characters, just like in real life.

Both Arlo and Spot encounter a multitude of intriguing and captivating characters, from Steve Zahn’s outlandish Thunderclap, a hillbilly Pterodactyl with a taste for human flesh, to Sam Elliott’s Butch, a T-Rex whose gruff exterior gradually gives way to his bighearted and paternal interior. Director Peter Sohn started at Pixar many years ago as an animator and gradually worked his way up to that of director and with “The Good Dinosaur,” his feature-film directorial debut, he delivers a movie that is inspiring and imaginative, entertaining both children and adults alike. The film never once panders to the younger crowd, instead, it puts them center stage and treats them with the highest of respect, knowing full well that this is the film’s intended audience and while a child might not necessarily know the meaning of the word pander, they will most certainly know when they are being treated that way.

The Good Dinosaur stomps into theaters November 25th.

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