The Good Dinosaur Review: A Dinosaur and His Boy

Hector Ramirez II

The Good Dinosaur is Disney Pixar’s latest film that asks, “What if the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs missed Earth?” From there, The Good Dinosaur tells a story I never expected from a dinosaur movie, but, knowing Pixar’s track record, I’m not all that surprised. Still, there is a unique take on the classic tale of “a boy and his dog” that is being done here.
The Good Dinosaur introduces us to Arlo, a young and apprehensive apatosaurus that gets separated from his home. It is then that Arlo has to trek through thick forests and snowy mountains alike in an effort to get back home, all the while facing his internal fears. However, Arlo is not alone on this adventure. The deuteragonist to this film is Spot, an orphaned human boy who accompanies Arlo.

A still from The Good Dinosaur (CBS photo)
A still from The Good Dinosaur (CBS photo)

The dynamic duo, who were once at odds, are the centerpiece of the film. Arlo and Spot are on opposite ends of the personality bar, with Arlo being more fearful and Spot personifying wild and tenacious. Both fill each other’s gaps that carry through the movie for a memorable and exciting adventure. Spot acts more akin to a dog, and it works. He is insanely adorable, brave and fun to see on the big screen.
Since Arlo and Spot do not speak the same language, they have to rely on different means of communication that test their trust and understanding. This situations also creates spectacular scenes that will really tug at those heartstrings (this is a Disney film after all) and proves just how talented the team at Pixar is at storytelling and characterization.
It is Arlo’s cowardly character that makes his responsibilities on the farm difficult for him, making him feel as if he is losing a sense of purpose as member of a hard working family. Henry, Arlo’s dad, does as any good father would do by keeping faith in Arlo and teaching him the benefits of overcoming your fears. The father-son relationship in The Good Dinosaur is one of the great elements of the film, and even made me reminisce of the impactful scenes of Simba and Mufasa in The Lion King.
The Good Dinosaur gives modern roles to prehistoric animals in a very amusing way. For instance, Apatosauruses, or long-neck dinosaurs, have learned to cultivate their land. A trio of friendly and likable tyrannosauruses that Arlo and Spot meet are steer-herders. Then there are the Pterodactyls, who are the ravenous, drug-addict like villains of the movie. Their roles are quite disturbing for a movie that is attracting all ages. In fact, this movie has one or two shocking scenes that I didn’t expect, such as Arlo and Spot going on an acid trip where both of their heads swapped onto each other’s bodies and laughed hysterically. While it was a hilarious moment, it also took me aback that a scene like Arlo and Spot getting higher than a kite made it into the final cut.

You can’t talk about The Good Dinosaur without talking about its visuals. Pixar sets the bar high with the amount of details in the backgrounds. Environments looked as if they were shot with a camera instead of CG animation, but it’s really Pixar working their magic. Pixar has made one of the most immersive animated worlds I have ever seen in a film. However, The Good Dinosaur was putting obvious cartoon dinosaurs in a world that looked too real to believe it was computer animated. This combination was somewhat off-putting during the course of the movie.
The Good Dinosaur’s characters are not as memorable as Inside Out’s Bing Bong or Monster’s Inc.’s Sully, but they were all likable to some degree. The real heart of the movie is Arlo and Spot’s. I can’t get over the moments in the movie that had them connect in inventive ways that stuck with me well after the credits rolled. While The Good Dinosaur isn’t Pixar’s greatest achievement this year, it’s well worth the price of admission.