Mostly a delight. Oh, there’s never a doubt for one moment where it’s going, but it’s charming, simple, and beautiful. You may have noticed that it’s already been a pretty good year for dinosaurs at the box office, and Pixar Animation Studios is seemingly in the market to continue the trend. “The Good Dinosaur” is animator/voice actor Peter Sohn’s feature directing debut, and he brings a lot of obvious passion to the project. Meg LeFauve’s screenplay is simple, yet elegant. And if the timeline of 65 million years ago, seems a little familiar these days–don’t worry. This one is completely family friendly, and will have you leaving the cineplex with a smile.
Arlo the young dinosaur, gets swept away from his parents and siblings in a flash flood. What’s an Apatosaurus to do? Miles from home, and desperate to assist his mother and two siblings with the life-maintaining crop harvesting, Arlo is lucky to team up with the scrappy, yammering little caveboy that he monikers “Spot”. Spot had caused Arlo some trouble before the flash flood occurred. But now, bound by their separation from their respective loved ones, the duo dodge killer snakes, ferocious predators, and scavenging pterodactyls. Facing raging storms, dangerous waterfalls, and mudslides as well, Arlo and Spot trudge along to locate the dinosaur’s home along the river.
As usual, with these expensive animated tent poles, there’s a bundle of marvelous vocal talent. Young Raymond Ochoa is solid as Arlo, with Oscar-winner Frances McDormand as his Momma, and Jefferey Wright as his loving Poppa. Versatile character actor Steve Zahn is Thunderclap the pterodactyl, plus director Sohn jumps into the fray as Forrest the Styracosaurus. There’s also Oscar-winner Anna Paquin, A.J. Buckley, and (of course) John Ratzenberger. And when I recognized Sam Elliot’s smooth cadence, as the wise Tyrannosaurus rancher named Butch–I couldn’t help but grin from ear-to-ear. My money has it that many of you will understand why. It’s not a monumental Pixar production, but I had very good time. More importantly–my kids did too.