My daughters think they are EXPERTS when it comes to Kids’ Films. They see every Kid Flick that comes out and since I write about movies, I usually interview them afterwards. My girls also spend time (more than I’m willing to admit here) on TV channels that are devoted to kids, so they’ve seen all the Made-For-TV Kid Flicks as well. They have a broad point of reference and are quicker to voice their opinions about movies that I ever was at that age. That is why I listen closely to their reviews, because they usually mirror what other kids their ages will say.
That said, Emma and Lucy were not excited about seeing The Good Dinosaur. Lucy thought the animation looked rote and Emma said The Good Dinosaur was derivative of better movies, like Ice Age and The Land Before Time. Okay, those weren’t the exact words they used but you get the point.
Then we saw The Good Dinosaur.
Actually, we saw the animated short that comes before it FIRST. It’s called Sanjay’s Super Team and I honestly think it’s the best short I’ve seen before any Pixar film. It’s about a little Hindu boy who doesn’t appreciate his father’s traditions and it’s BEAUTIFUL. I caught myself saying “WOW,” as I was watching it, which made my daughters crack up. Sanjay’s Super Team is exceptional, especially compared to the Lava short before Inside Out, which hit an all-time LOW, according to my girls.
My daughters’ biggest gripe going INTO The Good Dinosaur was the animation, or as they said, “Why does it look so CARTOONY?” You see almost instantly that the simple animation is only reserved for the dinosaurs. Everything else is crystal clear, to the point of looking REAL. It is incredible, but it also highlights the simplicity of the dinosaurs. I don’t know why they chose to put these very basic looking characters against life-like backdrops, because it’s a distraction throughout the film.
Also, The Good Dinosaur story isn’t quite as derivative as my daughter Emma assumed it would be. Dinosaurs continue to thrive on a planet that WASN’T struck by an asteroid, and evolve much the way humans have. A young dinosaur is separated from his family and must survive with the help of his human companion, Spot. The roles have been reversed here, with the dinosaur as the owner and boy as the pet. What follows is a familiar story of self-discovery, set against an unfamiliar backdrop of dinosaurs-as-humans.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but that isn’t always the case with kids. Adults might recognize a scene in The Good Dinosaur and think, “That’s a total Lion King rip-off!” A child, on the other-hand, might not be bothered by the similarity, and there are similarities throughout The Good Dinosaur.
Does that make it a bad movie?
I don’t think so. In fact, I was so caught up that I cried continuously through the last 20 minutes of The Good Dinosaur. My daughters did the same and we all held hands until the very end. Yes, the dinosaur animation is rote and the story is derivative, but The Good Dinosaur still filled us with those happy-sad feelings that we love so much and we walked out wiping away joyful tears. Disney-Pixar isn’t always capable of perfection, but we’ll gladly keep watching them try. –B+