You are me and more.
I kind of couldn’t believe Pixar decided to release two movies in a single year, but it was even stranger when you remember that the other movie released in 2015 was Inside Out, easily the best and most acclaimed Pixar film in years. If you walk into The Good Dinosaur ready to compare it to Inside Out, then, sure it’s going to suffer. But get over that and you’ve got a darn good movie ahead of you. It’s a kind of classic Disney set-up: ugly duckling feels out of place, death of a parent, adventure calls for maturity, friendship, etc. But it’s all really well done in the emotional sense. I should say that the visuals are really gorgeous and I particularly loved the character animation of the two main characters, the young dinosaur and the young boy. The film felt really intense to me in a lot of emotional ways. The section of the film where our main character is alone in the wilderness was genuinely terrifying and actually kind of disturbing and painful to me. The film smartly establishes early on that, though our dinosaur protagonist looks cartoonish, he isn’t a cartoon and he can be injured. The fact that he spends quite a while dealing with a leg injury communicates really vividly that this journey is genuinely dangerous. This really raises the stakes and that first scene of him desperately calling for his mother and later when he’s trapped under a rock . . . boy, those felt really scary and painful to me. And the film certainly has its big emotional moment when the dinosaur and the boy bond over the notion of families and then express their sorrow over their personal losses. I mean, it’s a beautiful, beautiful scene and it really got me right in the heart. And such a simple but evocative way to express those emotions. The movie isn’t consistent by a stretch. Director Sohn voices an incredibly annoying character that appears for a bit. And there’s a quite lengthy section involving some T. Rexes and Raptors (feathered!) that just doesn’t work at all. The humor in that section is just bizarrely juvenile, which I suppose this film is aimed at children, but juvenile humor doesn’t have to be this stupid. The film works best when it’s focused on that central relationship of the young dinosaur and the young boy depending on each other in order to survive. I did like the pterodactyl villains; the climactic fight sequence was genuinely thrilling and suspenseful. Again, I think that’s, to a large degree, because the film has established that our protagonist can be seriously injured. Anyway, it’s a really, really good movie, one that really got to me emotionally in a lot of ways. It isn’t as thematically or imaginitavely as deep as Inside Out, of course, but its story about unlikely friendship, finding maturity through hardship and overcoming your sorrows is deeply evocative. Those few failed sections aside, this movie really works. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – Pixar film has some stupid, unfunny sections, but it’s beautifully animated and the central story of a young dinosaur growing up and overcoming his fears and sorrow is deeply emotional. 3 ½ stars.