Review: The Good Dinosaur – A wonderfully wacky ‘what if’ western

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The Good DinosaurJust when you think the classic western film genre has gone the way of the dinosaur, Pixar Animation comes along and does just that, with their new movie, The Good Dinosaur — a tale that examines what might have happened if the legendary meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs missed the Earth altogether and sent our world’s pre-history down a completely different path.

Forget everything you thought you knew about dinosaurs and evolution. This film has Jurassic herbivores evolving into farmers and carnivores transitioning into cattle ranchers, while living alongside humans that are walking on all-fours like a cross between cavemen and dogs.

The plot is pretty simple and is in tried and true territory for Pixar, where the young, naïve protagonist is lost and tries to make it back home with the help of colorful, eccentric sidekicks while encountering equally bizarre villains along the way.

In this case, our hero is Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a runt-sized Apatosaurus who is desperate to make his mark and prove his value to his Poppa (voiced by Jeffrey Wright); but an d accident send the poor dinosaur miles upriver away from his home.

With the help of his new found friend, a hilarious human dog-boy named Spot (Jack Bright), Arlo has to overcome his fears and brave a weird and wacky wilderness in order to find his family.

The Good DinosaurThe fun twist on all of this is that the movie is basically a prehistoric western, very similar in tone to 2011’s Rango; but what really sets this film apart is its incredible animation, especially in regards to the scenic forest, raging rivers and mountain vistas, which look exactly like the real thing – and maybe better. This movie is downright beautiful.

I also applaud director Peter Sohn (who also voices the ultra-strange Styracosaurus, Forrest Woodbush) and his team of filmmakers for taking the ‘what if’ premise of the meteor missing the Earth and running full-on crazy with it. The Good Dinosaur is endlessly inventive and these storytellers could care less about stupid scientific details. I say, ‘Bravo!’

Additional voice talent in this film includes: Frances McDormand as Arlo’s Momma; Steve Zahn as the menacing Pterodactylus, Thunderclap; Sam Elliott as Butch the cowboy Tyrannosaurus; and Anna Paquin as his daughter, Ramsey.

The Good DinosaurAs original and entertaining as this film is, I’d be remiss in my nerd duties if I didn’t mention that this isn’t the first time that liberties have been taken with the disciplines of paleontology and evolutionary biology. The Good Dinosaur reminded me a lot of Jack Kirby’s late-seventies comic book series, Devil Dinosaur, with his sidekick, Moon-Boy.

A Marvel Comics (AKA Disney) comic series, “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,” which re-envisions and re-boots Kirby’s original book, hits comic stores the same day that this Pixar (AKA Disney) movie hits theaters. Coincidence? I think not.

The Good Dinosaur was reported to have a lot of problems during its development, which included changing directors and much of the story, but in the end Pixar has delivered another amazing and timeless classic that is great fun for the whole family. Grade: 8.5/10

Photos © 2015 Disney/Pixar