‘The Good Dinosaur’
Director: Peter Sohn
Voices of: Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright
4 (out of 5) Globes
Earlier this year, Pixar released “Inside Out,” which, despite its loud colors and funny characters, seemed primarily aimed at adults. How do kids even process a movie whose very text concerns the death of childhood and the onslaught of neuroses, depression and existential dread? So take heed, because “The Good Dinosaur,” their second film of 2015, is very much for kids. It’s simple and direct, complete with a basic, repeatedly reiterated lesson about overcoming fear.
In fact, there’s not even many of the usual Pixar jokes about its hero, young Arlo (voice of Rayond Ochoa), an apotasaurus born tiny and physically stunted. He’s grown into a scaredy cat dino, and his clumsiness and constant state of quivering fear is only occasionally played for laughs. In fact, his cowardice even causes the death of his macho father (Jeffrey Wright), who perishes early on, a la Bambi’s mom (or Superman’s dad).
Arlo’s insecurity is challenged, of course: An accident sweeps him way downriver, far from home. He has to learn some token lessons about manning up, or at least make some friends, including a feral and savvy babbling caveboy (Jack Bright) he names Spot. (Note: This is set in an alternate world where dinosaurs weren’t wiped out. It still doesn’t make sense, as Neil deGrasse Tyson has pointed out, that early man would have evolved, but, you know, chill.)
“The Good Dinosaur”’s simplicity doesn’t, mind you, make it lesser Pixar. Adults have been conditioned, most of all by the titanic animated house itself, to expect a certain level of emotional, even philosophical and definitely technical sophistication in toons ostensibly made for children. “The Good Dinosaur” is more modest. If its coming-of-age story engages with adults at all it’s in a way that taps into childhood fears — and sometimes quite brutally, in a way reminiscent of Pixar’s parent company Disney.