There were many changes made to Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” during the production phase, including a new director, a reworked plot, a delayed release date and a mostly new cast, so it’s not surprising that it’s one of the bigger disappointments from the animation studio with a nearly sterling record. Is this really the same studio that made “Inside Out?”
Following every coming-of-age trope, dinosaur Arlo — the runt of the litter — is born into a family of hardworking farmers in the rugged frontier. That’s right, “The Good Dinosaur” is a Western.
Arlo, tiny and full of fear, can’t handle farm life, but his dad sees big things in him, giving him the task of protecting the food from “critters.”
That task ends in tragedy for Arlo, with his dad dying (you all saw that coming, right?) and him getting stranded from his family with the critter he was trying to kill after a storm sends them shooting down a flooding river.
From this point, the film makes a sea change, going from the mundane farm setting to a Western road adventure, still paint-by-numbers but improved.
Arlo and the critter — Spot, a human boy who acts like a dog — are making their way across some seriously beautiful vistas trying to get back home. Some of the best moments of the film are the sweet, small ones between Arlo and Spot that show real emotion.
Along the way, they encounter a bevy of foes (maniacal Pterodactyls and Velociraptors) and friends (a crazy Styracosaurus and a family of Tyrannosaurus ranchers, with the alpha voiced by Sam Elliott in full drawl).
Visually, “The Good Dinosaur” is a spectacular movie, but the story is so ordinary and unbalanced that it’s barely worth a shrug of the shoulders.