MOVIE MAN

‘The Good Dinosaur’ is just that, good

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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Pixar’s second movie in one year – a rarity – has arrived with “The Good Dinosaur.” It could hardly be more different looking than the earlier one, “Inside Out” (Movie Man No. 1144, 7), and that’s a good thing.

ABOUT THE FILM

This has been the year of 7s for the Movie Man, another rare thing.

With “The Good Dinosaur” earning a 7, that’s five 7s in a row: “Bridge of Spies;” “Spectre;” “The Peanuts Movie;” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.”

What’s more unusual is the remarkable total number of 7s in 2015 including “Paddington;” “Kingsmen: The Secret Service;” “McFarland, USA;” “Focus;” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron;” “Jurassic World;” “Ant-Man;” “Straight Outta Compton;” and “The Visit.”

That’s 15, by far the most 7s in one year for the Movie Man – and three reviews remain. Often a 7 has cracked the Top 10 in the Best of Year tallies; this year, some really good movies will be left out.

(The Worst of Year is a lock. A 1 is the rarest Movie Man rating, excluding 10, of course, since only Movie Wife is a 10, and “Ted 2” has already cemented the crappiest movie of 2015 with it).

In case you’re wondering, consecutive 9s has never occurred, and the longest stretch of 8s is three – at the end of 2003 with “The Return of the King” and the first two reviews of 2004, “Cold Mountain” and “Big Fish” and earlier this year with “The Imitation Game,” “Selma,” and “American Sniper.”

THE PLOT (SPOILER)

A meteor just misses Earth so dinosaurs evolve while humans remain dog-like scavengers. Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) is the weakest of three dino hatchlings of Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) and Momma (Frances McDormand). His siblings, Buck (Marcus Scribner) and Libby (Maleah-Nipay-Padilla), shine early, but Arlo struggles.

When essential corn is discovered being stolen, Poppa charges Arlo with catching the culprit. He does; it’s the wild human Spot (Jack Bright), who scurries around on all fours. But soft-hearted Arlo lets Spot go, forcing the father and son to track him. A flash flood kills Poppa and sweeps Arlo far from home.

He begins to try to return, and Spot and Arlo eventually become a friendly team. But the route home is long and hard. Creepy carnivorous pterodactyls attack and terrifying T-Rexes – the leader is Butch, voiced by burly Sam Elliot – tower.

Then there’s the relentless prehistoric weather that batters Arlo and the orphan Spot. But the duo matures and handles what befalls them.

WHAT WORKS (SPOILER)

Never has a movie’s background been as eye-popping. That makes the goofy way the characters are rendered even more unique.

The pterodactyls are quirky and friendly with a whiff of the old Terrytunes cartoons. Then they suddenly turn evil and threaten Arlo and Spot; it’s a flip-flop change of pace that works. That’s followed by another left turn when the fearsome T-Rexes turn out to be good guys.

The 3-D is above average, especially in the short, Sanjay’s Super Team.

The short before the main feature is daring. It’s a combination of Hinduism and superheroes, as well as a comment on religious tradition between young and old, and it works. However, ultra-conservative Christians will likely be offended, especially in these troubled real-life ethnic and spiritual times.

BEST SCENE

Arlo and Spot are hungry. They come upon rotting fruit on the ground and gorge on it (fruit that has fermented). Their “trip” is brief but funny. It’s the only adult-oriented segment in the movie and will surely fly over most kids’ heads.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

The movie plods along even with a plot that offers nothing new. The child separated from parent theme was old when Bambi came along.

This is perhaps the first Pixar to reek a tad too much of Disney syrupiness. It’s substantially aimed at a young audience. There’s little adult fun.

In fact, Movie Wife, not usually a cynic, felt it was manipulative and cloying.

THE RATING

Aside from a dead parent, characters are constantly threatened by other critters – a huge snake is especially aggressive – and inclement weather. (Apparently dinosaurs evolving instead of humans made no difference when it comes to climate change). It will scare very little ones.

SUMMING UP

“The Good Dinosaur” is not a top tier Pixar movie. It’s middlin’, and that’s better than most animated movies. That’s two solid Pixar efforts in 2015 – nice.

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