The Good Dinosaur | Indy Week

The Good Dinosaur

Rated NR 2014

The publicity materials for Disney and Pixar’s latest focus on the fact that it’s set in a world where an asteroid didn’t hit Earth and dinosaurs continued to evolve. What goes unmentioned is that the premise is an excuse for an old-fashioned children’s adventure story—a “boy and his dog” tale where the dog is the boy and the boy is a dinosaur. Set in an untouched American West, The Good Dinosaur is a simple story of a dino homestead where a four-legged Apatosaurus family is apparently quite good at irrigation and growing corn despite a lack of opposable thumbs. Family runt Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is terrified of everything and despairs of never “making his mark,” a point the film illustrates literally. An encounter with a loin-clothed “critter” (Jack Bright) leads to a tragedy, and then Arlo is swept downriver, where he discovers that the cave-boy he resents is a surprisingly loyal companion on the long, danger-filled trip home. Like the Cars films, this one seems aimed at a tradition-loving Middle American audience. But there’s a darkness to this story that contrasts with the soft, toy-like pastel dinosaurs; Arlo suffers about every physical and emotional trauma possible in a Disney flick, dead parent included. It’s all a little old-fashioned for Pixar, which has done its best work breathing fresh life into tired ideas. It doesn’t feel particularly innovative, or even interested in exploring the dinosaur-based society it’s created. But it’s nice to see that old-fashioned children’s adventure stories aren’t, well, extinct.

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