You have your great Pixar movies. “Up.” “Inside Out.” “Wall-E.” The “Toy Story” trilogy. Movies with sensational visuals and exquisitely crafted stories with multigenerational appeal.
And then you have your good Pixars. “Brave.” “Monsters University.” (Let’s not talk about the “Cars” pictures, shall we?) And now “The Good Dinosaur.” See there? Its place in the firmament is right in the title.
Like other, lesser Pixars, “Dinosaur” is primarily aimed at kids. Its story is pretty simple: Fearful young dino learns to overcome his anxieties in the course of an odyssey filled with many perils.
The visuals lack the sophistication of the studio’s best offerings. Clumsy, long-necked hero Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) has feet that look like suction cups, teeth like Chiclets (nothing sharp or threatening about those choppers) and a green and goofy physicality that’s slightly reminiscent of Gumby.
Take it together and it all adds up to cute. As in: Toys. And hey, parents, it’s Black Friday. Arlo and friends are waiting for you down at the mall.
The story is set in an alternative Earth where the meteor that wiped out the giant lizards on our world goes swooping by — near miss! — instead.
Dino civilization evolves, dinos become farmers and ranchers, and humans become ... unevolved.
Meet Spot, a boy who behaves like a happy dog. He scampers around on all fours, and meets the world with tongue-out, wordless enthusiasm.
He’s a pest at first, stealing corn from Arlo’s family farm, but later boy and dino kid bond and save each other at various times from all sorts of trouble.
It’s a dangerous world out there, full of ferocious storms, killer flash floods and scavenging, befanged pterodactyls. Plenty of fodder for frights, in other words.
And that sets up what amounts to a course of moral instruction for trembly Arlo.
His father, voiced by Jeffrey Wright, patiently urges him to make his mark in the world (a literal muddy paw print on a stone, in fact) by doing “something bigger than yourself.” A father-figure T-Rex (Sam Elliott) sagely counsels, “You don’t get rid of fear; you get through it.”
Words to the wise, kid. Now go forth into the big, wide, perilous world with your boy-dog buddy and learn to become a man — er, grown-up dinosaur.
There’s nothing too deep here, but the picture does warm the heart.
The Good Dinosaur
☆☆☆ 1/2 stars out of 5
Cast: Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright , Jack Bright and Frances McDormand.
Director: Peter Sohn.
Running time: 1:35.
Rated: PG, for peril, action and thematic elements.