Monday, August 29, 2016

The Good Dinosaur

The strength of The Good Dinosaur (dir. Peter Sohn, 2015) is the setting: lush landscapes, towering mountains, sparkling sky.  It’s tempting to imagine that the background of the film was taken directly from natural scenes of the American west, adjusted appropriately for this animated feature.  The dinosaurs, however, make up for the realistic scenery.  They are big eyed and mostly non-threatening reptiles, and the main character, the good dinosaur of the title, is cute and doe-eyed.  They’re Disney dinosaurs. This is an alternative universe dinosaur film.  The huge asteroid missed the earth, and sixty-five million years later dinosaurs continue to thrive.  They have taken up farming and buffalo-herding. The film has a familiar plot: the little dinosaur is jealous of the achievements of his older siblings, so he must prove himself in order to leave his mark on the family silo as proof of his worthiness.  When his father is killed in a flood and the little dinosaur is swept downriver, he has his chance.  He makes friends with a childlike humanoid who begins to follow him around.  The humans aren’t highly evolved, at least yet, and they’re wary of the dinosaurs, who consider them pests.  Humans can’t talk, though the boy in this film seems capable of abstract thought, as they say.  So, this is a coming of age film, a buddy film, and a search for home film.  My favorite scenes involve the tyrannosaurs, who instead of eating other dinosaurs have become buffalo herders.  It’s the Jurassic American west, the search for a dinosaurian American dream.  Would I recommend this film for children?  In one scene a huge fly has his head bitten off, and in others the dinosaur or his human friend is threatened, and the overall separation of the dinosaur from his mother and siblings would disturb younger children, so I guess not.  But I liked it.

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