Two Pixar movies in a single year is always good news, and although “The Good Dinosaur” is no “Inside Out,” it is a very good, very charming kid’s movie.
“Inside Out” happens to be one of the finest movies of the year, brilliant in conception and ingenious in execution. It’s an animated film that works even better for adults than children. “The Good Dinosaur,” on the other hand, is much more kid-friendly. The story line is more conventional and sentimental, but it also has sparks of inventiveness that justifies the Pixar brand.
The what-if premise of the movie is that the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaur 65 millions years ago missed hitting Earth, and as a result dinosaurs still roamed our planet millions of years later. Cut to dinosaurs cultivating the land as if they were farmers, tilling the fields, planting and watering and eventually harvesting and storing the crops. The dinos are also raising families.
Arlo, our movie’s focus, is the runt of his particular family. Arlo is never able to measure up to his bigger brother and sister, let alone his imposing father. Following a tragic storm, Arlo is forced to face his fears and grow up into a dinosaur his father could be proud of.
That wrap-up may be a little misleading because despite the conventionality of the plot the film is full of fresh and surprising touches and engenders a few good, deep laughs as well.
Much of the cleverness of the film involves Arlo’s relationship with a scrappy little humanoid kid who starts out as an adversary and ends up an ally. The trick here is that the dinosaur has all the recognizably human qualities and the human kid is more animalistic, much more comfortable battling the laws of nature but also unable to speak. Quite appropriately, he’s dubbed Spot. And yes, their relationship will tug at your emotions like any kid-dog combo does in real life.