By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Alternate reality of 'The Good Dinosaur' is more curious than clever
Spot, voiced by Jack Bright, left, and Arlo, voiced by Raymond Ochoa, in a scene from "The Good Dinosaur." - photo by Josh Terry
THE GOOD DINOSAUR 2 stars the voices of Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Maleah Nipay-Padilla, Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright; PG (peril, action and thematic elements); in general release

A meteor streaks past the Earth in the opening sequence of The Good Dinosaur, briefly disturbing some grazing dinosaurs and setting up the films premise: What if the dinosaurs never went extinct?

Fast-forward a few million years and we get our answer: domesticated dinosaurs. At the foot of what appears to be the Tetons, somehow a Brontosaurus couple has developed the ability to tie ropes, build shelters and farm crops.

We join them at their homestead on the day they become parents. Two of their kids are normal, rambunctious dinosaurs. The third is a runt named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), a knock-kneed goofball who cant quite keep up with his siblings. He is determined to make his mark on the world, but his fears continue to get the best of him.

Arlos mettle is tested early on when Poppa (Jeffrey Wright) puts him in charge of fending off a pest that has been stealing the familys corn. The pest turns out to be a human child named Spot (Jack Bright), who behaves like a dog (and oddly, doesnt speak, unlike the rest of the characters in the movie). When Poppa leads Arlo into the mountains after Spot, a flash flood intervenes, and Poppa is killed.

Arlo blames Spot for his fathers death, so when the feral child continues to pillage the family crops, Arlo chases him into a nearby river, which sweeps the two of them miles from home. The Good Dinosaur then has two missions: get Arlo home, and get him past his fears.

The premise of evolved dinosaurs has plenty of potential, and its easy to imagine an inventive take on a Jurassic World here. But The Good Dinosaur takes a different path, and plays like a prehistoric mix tape, mashing up familiar and not-so-familiar characters in a way that feels more curious than clever.

As Arlo and Spot try to make their way home, they meet a variety of characters that exhibit a variety of hostilities. The archaeological record feels like an animated toy box, such as when a trio of Tyrannosaurus rexes led by Sam Elliott decide to help Arlo instead of eat him instantly.

Not to worry, though; there are plenty of scary creatures ready to give Arlo and Spot the business end of their sharp teeth, particularly a pack of Pterodactyls led by the especially nasty Thunderclap (Steve Zahn). Parents of small children should probably know that The Good Dinosaur has a few genuinely intense moments. Were still in animated Pixar territory, but judging by the young pre-screening audience, The Good Dinosaur could pack a few frights for little ones.

One of The Good Dinosaurs strong points is its advanced animation (available in 3D, of course). While the main characters are pretty simple and streamlined, their environments are often striking, and can even make you second-guess whether the animators placed their creations in real-life settings.

But good animation and production quality cant quite offset a plot that drags at some points, and just seems odd in others. You have to give Pixar credit for the creative effort, but the result fails to gel like some of their other classics.

One final note for parents: The Good Dinosaur is preceded by an animated short called Sanjays Super Team. Plan your attention spans accordingly.

"The Good Dinosaur" is rated PG for peril, action and thematic elements; running time: 100 minutes.
Sign up for our e-newsletters