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With: Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Maleah Nipay-Padilla, Ryan Teeple, Jack McGraw, Marcus Scribner, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, Mandy Freund, Steven Clay Hunter, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, David Boat, Carrie Paff, Calum Grant, John Ratzenberger (voices)
Written by: Meg LeFauve, based on a story by Peter Sohn, Meg LeFauve, Erik Benson, Kelsey Mann, Bob Peterson
Directed by: Peter Sohn
MPAA Rating: PG for peril, action and thematic elements
Running Time: 100
Date: 11/25/2015
IMDB

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bucking Brontos

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Pixar's second movie of 2015, The Good Dinosaur is a strange little thing, bursting with beautiful nature imagery, good intentions, and odd ideas. The unasked question is whether it will "compete" with Inside Out. It doesn't, but it will certainly find an audience among those who don't care about such things.

It's set in an alternate universe, where the deadly meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs just misses the earth. A million years later, dinosaurs have evolved into farmers and ranchers, raising their own food. On a corn farm, a papa dinosaur (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) and a mama dinosaur (voiced by Frances McDormand) hatch three new eggs. There's a normal boy dinosaur and a normal girl dinosaur, and then there's Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), a wobbly-legged misfit who's scared of everything. While trying to catch a critter that has been stealing their crops, Arlo inadvertently causes a fatal accident, and then finds himself swept away for some untold distance down the river.

Like many other Pixar movies, he finds himself paired with an unlikely partner, a dog-like human called Spot (voiced, in barks and howls, by Jack Bright), and beginning a long journey home. (It's not dissimilar, in its way, to the journeys of Woody and Buzz, Marlin and Dory, Carl and Russell, and Joy and Sadness.) A sequence in the middle of the film suddenly transforms things into a Western, as Arlo helps three Tyrannosauruses find their herd of "longhorns," stolen by rustlers. (Sam Elliott provides the booming, gravelly voice of the scarred T. Rex papa, called Butch.) The invention of the alternate reality allows for the creation of all kinds of bizarre creatures, from a triceratops with various creatures riding on its horns, to a snake with tiny feet. Some of these creatures are appealingly thorny, and some are just a little unsettling.

Perhaps strangest of all is a brief hallucination sequence after Arlo and Spot accidentally consume some fermented fruit; it seems more suited to Trainspotting than Pixar. (Earlier this year I wrote about how weird The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water was, but The Good Dinosaur tops it.) Coupled with a startling amount of death and loss, it's far from a cuddly, innocuous movie. Character-wise, Arlo screams in fright a few too many times for my tastes, but he's likable enough. The movie's high point is its animated rendering of nature, especially water; it has never looked so amazingly realistic, so very wet.

The show comes packaged with a short cartoon called Sanjay's Super Team; it's not as emotionally powerful as Lava, but it offers some cultural diversity and some nifty superhero action.

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