Disney’s latest animated adventure asks the question, what if the asteroid that forever changed life on earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?
The Good Dinosaur is about a family of Apatosauruses, in particular the runt of the litter. His name is Arlo and, basically, he’s a scaredy-cat. From the moment he’s born, he’s afraid of the world around him. That fear holds him back. Arlo lives with his brave father and mother and two siblings. They run a farm and do all the usual things that dinosaurs do. They are all out to prove themselves, to make their mark, as is Arlo, but for him it doesn’t come naturally. When calamity strikes and Arlo is separated from his family, he must learn to fend for himself and that’s when his maturation occurs.
While the circumstances mightn’t be great, out of adversity comes opportunity and so it is here. Arlo unexpectedly befriends a diminutive but fearless human friend (think prehistoric man) named Spot and together they travel through the harsh and mysterious landscape as Arlo looks to find a way home. Tenacious and brave, Spot can’t speak, yet he gives Arlo the kind of loyalty and unconditional love that fuels the latter’s self-discovery. I loved the rabid dog feel, the terrier like bite that Spot injected into the piece.
The Good Dinosaur is a coming of age story that starts off relatively slowly, but picks up pace and interest when Arlo starts on his boys’ own adventure with Spot. They encounter flying dinosaurs that literally see them as their meal ticket and are forced to battle fierce storms and raging torrents.
In amongst the action, in typical Disney style there is also the mandatory humour, some of which is very clever. Like the best animated features, it is the personalities of the characters as well as the story itself that makes The Good Dinosaur enjoyable, if not quite as compelling as some of the studio’s earlier works.
The voice cast includes Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay –Parts I & II) as Arlo’s wise Poppa, Frances McDormand (Fargo) as Arlo’s strong Momma, Raymond Ochoa (Disney’s A Christmas Carol) as Arlo and Jack Bright (Monsters University) as Spot. Steve Zahn (Captain Fantastic) voices a fearless pterodactyl named Thunderclap, while the dulcet tones of Sam Elliott (Thank You For Smoking) are unmistakable as T-Rex patriarch Butch.
The Good Dinosaur presents a familiar theme with a twist by way of the unexpected pairing of a brave little boy with a frightened dinosaur. Even though it will be billed as a family film, I think this one is best for the youngsters.
Rated PG, it scores a 6½ out of 10.
Director: Peter Sohn
Cast: (Voices of) Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn
Release Date: 26 December 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television