The Good Dinosaur – Film Review

It is 65 million years ago; a massive asteroid is moving toward Planet Earth and … it misses.
Millions of years later and, today, the dinosaurs are still alive. In fact, they seem to be rather civilized; they know how to build, farm and cultivate crops. Somewhere in Three Point Mountain, a family of Apatosauri is harvesting food for the snowy months ahead. But the ‘critter’, a bothersome creature is continuously stealing their food.
One day, the youngest of the dinosaur hatchlings, Arlo, and his father set out to find and get rid of the critter once and for all. But Arlo’s father is washed away in the storm. Days later, out of rage, Arlo begins to chase the critter into the forest, accidentally falls into the river and gets washed onto a different shore. Alone and far away from home, the shaky little dinosaur makes an unexpected friend in the critter, a rugged little human child, who he names “Spot”. Together, they find a way back home, but not before coming across a few stumbling blocks on the way.
One of the most noticeable things about this movie is that it is very reminiscent of Lion King, and it uses a classic Disney formula, which makes the movie rather easy to predict at times, especially at the beginning. Still, there is something very different that this movie brings to the table, and once you get over the various Lion King references, the charm of the main story begins to stand out.
First of all, the humour in this animation seems natural and not forced. If you are amused, it is not because of something extraordinary, nor is anything presented in a slapstick manner, it is more because you are able to relate to a character’s circumstances. In fact, the relatability of this movie is well-threaded into many of its elements; not only in the dialogue, sentiments and the comedic timing, but also in the interaction between the characters and their surroundings. For example, Arlo running through a flat plain filled with birds reminds you of someone running through a meadow of butterflies. And when you see how Arlo and Spot interact with each other you think of the bond between a child and his beloved pet (ironic as it may be).
What I appreciate the most is that through the expressions, symbolism and dialogue, the film is able to tell the stories of both characters with one of them not even needing to say anything comprehensible. At times, Arlo’s conversations with Spot seem to resemble more of an internal dialogue, which is then mirrored by Spot’s facial expressions and body language. In this way, the movie is able to present certain themes rather uniquely. We get to experience both thought and impulse as separate components that end up working well together. And through this dynamic, we get to experience both characters’ loneliness and longing for family, as well as each of their sacrifices and growing love for each other. I found that the issues that Arlo and Spot have are heartfelt and are expressed in a way both children and adults can appreciate. In my opinion, that is the backbone of any animation.
However, there are a couple of scenes parents should be aware of when watching with their children. A few allusions to cursing and the use of hallucinogens will make you wonder how appropriate this movie is for kids. I suppose animations are becoming more and more comfortable with showing such suggestive content so I would say it is always a good idea keep an eye open if you are sensitive to your children being introduced to such material, whether it is intended as humour or not.
Apart from a few things you need to look out for, the Good Dinosaur tells a gratifying story. If anything, the beautiful artwork and clear graphics are enticing and makes watching it a breeze.