Review: The Good Dinosaur

Credit: IMDB

Disney is getting better and better at making my husband cry. He tightens his hand on mine, as though trying to comfort me however I realise it’s his way of trying to hold it in. As we left the cinema, he laughed commenting ‘Dammit Disney, why?’
Since the visually stunning trailer including Of Monsters and Men’s hauntingly inspirational song Crystals, I’d been hanging out to see this film. Do I have kids? No. Do I care? Nope. Will I always love cartoons? Absolutely.

Its predecessor Inside Out hit me so hard in the feels, that I found myself at a ridiculous crossroads when my husband came home from work and said ‘get dressed, The Good Dinosaur starts at 6.45’. Did I really feel like crying tonight?

The movie starts by showing us an alternative to the cosmic event that made humans a dominant species – the asteroid went past Earth, and the dinosaurs continued to live on. Fast forward a few million years and we see our ‘prehistoric’ characters have evolved to living in a reality similar to that of frontier times. Arlo is the youngest and most timid or a corn farming family of Apatosaurus. Arlo’s family fall under difficult times, tugging Arlo further into his own fears and by accident, he falls into the river and wakes up, downstream and very far from home. Arlo must find his courage to try and survive in the wild with the help of a small wild cave-boy who decides to befriend him, staying as loyal as a guard dog. Arlo accepts his presence and names him Spot. Together they face the wilderness, meeting friend and foe in other species as they journey back to Arlo’s farm.
Yes, be prepared to cry.

I’m a Disney fan from way back – I still remember 1994, sitting in the cinema watching Simba try to wake Mufasa; Bambi I refuse to watch again; even the first act of Big Hero 6 made me want to throw the telly out the window – and don’t even speak to me about UP. I’m beginning to notice a recent progression in the heart wrenching scenes of these beloved movies – the writers and animators are portraying grief and loss non-verbally. UP had a whole montage where there was no dialogue expressing their life together; when they could portray Ellie’s infertility in one wordless scene and children could understand, a round of applause is deserved. I was doing so well in Tangled, until the scene where the King and Queen are getting ready to raise the lanterns; the Queen straightens her husband’s medallion and looks up to see him hanging his head, and wipes away his tear. He takes a deep breath, leaning his cheek on his wife’s palm as they share a moment of their grief together – 18 years since their daughter went missing. I think it was then, that I could microscopically understand what it must be like for families with missing children. Again, not one word was spoken during that scene. Toy Story 3’s incinerator scene; there was nothing left for the toys to do or say, except hold hands – god dammit!

The Good Dinosaur is no different in this pattern, portraying Arlo and Spot bonding through loss in a touching non-verbal scene, with strong symbolism, almost feeling like an ancient ritual to honour our fallen, and further on as Arlo and Spot realise what they mean to each other.

The computer generated scenery is dazzling; the mountain views and debris-lathered waterfalls are very real and the imagery has stayed true to the reds and roughness of a Wild West terrain.

The movie is getting some negative comments about how it stacks up to what Pixar/Disney has done in the past. Despite being a fanatic, I never walk into a movie and expect it to be like one I have seen before. I may enjoy some more than others however I individualise movies by their themes and the character’s particular adventure. Don’t walk in and attempt to stack it up next to your old favourites. This is a beautiful movie about a boy’s coming of age – if you can accept that, then you’ll enjoy it.

Bring tissues, and a sensitive other. Big boys cry too.

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