Friday, November 27, 2015


My little girl and I enjoyed an enjoyable daddy-daughter night out going to see THE GOOD DINOSAUR, the newest PIXAR theatrical movie release from Walt Disney Studios. This really is an excellent film to go see for a family outing to the movie theater, especially if you have elementary aged children, though there are some scenes in the film that may be too intense and scary for some preschoolers.  The Good Dinosaur arrived at movie theaters Thanksgiving Weekend, is rated PG, and is a 100 minutes in length.

The movie begins with the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs on our planet 65 million years ago narrowly missing instead providing the premise for the story that dinosaurs could have been roaming the Earth at the same time humans were beginning to emerge onto the landscape.  This animated film has a Wild West theme with an Apple Dumpling Gang vibe to it combined with cartoonish dinosaurs in the roles of cowboys, farmers, Indians, rustlers, and outlaws obviously inspired from classic Hollywood western movies.  The central character of the movie is Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), the smallest dinosaur in a family of Apatosaurus.  Arlo is afraid of everything which is beginning to make him a nuisance on the family farm and aggravation to his Poppa (Jeffrey Wright), Momma (Frances McDormand), and two-siblings Buck (Marcus Scribner) and Libby (Maleah Nipay-Padilla).

To help Arlo get over his fears and "make his mark" in contributing to the family, Poppa assigns him the task of capturing and killing the "Critter" that has been sneaking into the farm's corn silo and eating their winter supply of food.  Arlo discovers that the thief is an orphaned human caveboy and can't bring himself to kill the "Critter" when he has it trapped.  When Poppa discovers that Arlo let the caveboy go, the elder dinosaur becomes enraged and drags off Arlo to go with him to look for it and finish the job.

** Spoilers Ahead **

Unfortunately, while searching for the "Critter", a storm arrives and a flash flood wipes through the canyon with Arlo only being able to survive drowning by his Poppa sacrificing himself to save the son.  The story fast forwards to the next year's harvest with the family struggling to get by without Poppa.  Arlo discovers that the "Critter" also survived the flood and is back stealing the family's corn again.  He chases after the caveboy seeking revenge for his Poppa's death, but ends up getting swept away in a river ending up far, far away from the family farm.

Lost, scared, and alone things are looking pretty grim for the young Apatosaurus until the "Critter" finds Arlo and begins looking out for him.  Witnessing the odd interaction between Arlo and the "Critter", a Styracosaurus called the Pet Collector (Peter Sohn) approaches them in one of the more comedic scenes of the film.  This dinosaur, whose traits resemble a native American chief from a Wild West film has gathered a collection of forest creatures to protect him and wants to add the "Critter" to his ensemble.  Arlo and the Pet Collector agree that whoever shouts out a name first that the "Critter" responds to gets to keep it.  Arlo wins out and the caveboy gets the name "Spot" in a scene which really begins the friendship between the dinosaur and his human sidekick.  Thus the duo begins an adventure across a harsh landscape in a journey back to Arlo's family farm.  During this trek, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and what he is truly capable of.

Arlo and Spot next encounter a pack of pterodactyls they initially believe will help them get home but instead find out this group of bandits is only really out to eat them.  Fortunately the youngsters are saved by some cowboys, in the guise of three T-Rexs - Butch (Sam Elliot), Ramsey (Anna Paquin) and Nash (AJ Buckley) - who are herding buffalo in a cattle herd.  To earn the help of the Tyrannosaurus, Arlo and Spot must help stop a trio of Raptors from rustling the buffalo.  You'll have to watch The Good Dinosaur to find out what happens next.

The scenes with Poppa dying, the T-Rex roaring, the raptors rustling and the pterodactyls attacking can be a bit intense, scary and violent for younger viewers though my six year old herself didn't have any issues at all with this film.  My daughter though was somewhat freaked out by the PIXAR short called "Sanjay's Super Team" that ran before the feature film.  It is the story of an Indian-American boy fantasizing about the similarities between his favorite TV superheroes and his father's Hindu gods.  It features a fast-paced action sequence with the boy tackling an antagonistic monster which had my daughter covering her eyes with her hands til it was over.  The short was creative, very original, and  I found it very enjoyable bringing to mind memories of my watching Tron as a kid, but a bit too intense for my little girl.  Just a heads up fellow parents!

The Good Dinosaur is filled with great landscapes and natural backdrops that really are stunning at times.  I'm not normally a fan of 3-D but it worked really well in this film enhancing the life like natural settings in the movie.  In particular there is a scene where Arlo runs through a flock of birds and the 3-D really enhances your viewing dimension provided to the setting placing you into the moment as if these gulls were flying about around you.  There are quite a few moments where the 3-D really provides extra dimension improving the context of a scene for your viewing enjoyment.  The 3-D really expands upon the great animation in the film and I would recommend viewing it in this format if you can.

The downside of The Good Dinosaur is that while the movie's focus is on Arlo's struggles and adventures, the main character (even if you watch the movie in 3D ) is rather flat and just not that interesting and likable.  It is the supporting characters that really stand out in the film with Spot stealing the show.  Some of the scenes also can be pretty unoriginal with Poppa's death scene seeming as if it came right out of the stampede scene from A Lion King and some of Spot and Arlo's could resemble the unlikely friendship and buddy-story interactions from A Fox & A Hound.  Also the wonderful big-sky horizons and the incredibly detailed water and forest scenes at times really dwarf the characters and when we are talking about characters we're talking about dinosaurs here.  I'm not sure if it is a good thing when you are enjoying taking in the background of a movie rather than being absorbed into the plot of its story.

That being said there were some very original, touching moments that were pure PIXAR magic in The Good Dinosaur.  There is a scene that Spot and Arlo disclose to one another they both have had parents die.  Since the two don't speak the same language they have to communicate by drawing symbols and moving sticks in the dirt.  It is a pure heart-breaking moment when the audience is enveloped into the story when these two characters understand they both share a profound grief for lost parents.  This is an especially touching moment that is nice to be able to share with your own loved ones sitting by your side.  While it doesn't have the best storyline, this film is full of the special touches PIXAR is know for combined with plenty of comedic moments and great animation which makes A Good Dinosaur a fun and enjoyable movie.

Coloring Pages

The Good Dinosaur gets A Geek Daddy nod of approval because it is a light-hearted movie that a parent can depend on for providing a fun and entertaining time on a family outing to the movies.

Recreate your family's favorite scenes from The Good Dinosaur or create your own adventures with this fun Dino-O-Rama featuring Arlo, Spot, Butch, Ramsey, Nash and the Pet Collector from the movie.


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