Quality: This score indicates entertainment value.
0 stars is horrible, while 5 stars is spectacular.
Political: This score addresses political messaging.
0 stars is aggressively anti-Conservative, while 5 stars is highly pro-Conservative. 3 stars is apolitical.
Moral/Religious (M/R): This score addresses moral and religious messaging.
0 stars is either intensely immoral or all-out, needless assault on Christianity. 5 stars is either great moral messaging or highly pro-Christian. 3 stars is inoffensive either way.
Quality – 3.5 stars, Political – 3 stars, M/R – 1.5 stars
Those were the words echoing in my mind after Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur.” It starts with a heavily evangelistic Hindu short, dedicated from a director to his father. Pretty cute. But pretty disturbing. The audience was stone silent, and I doubt they’d have felt any better if the short were themed, “Jesus is my hero!”
Then came the feature film, leading off with a fun premise: “What would happen if the dinosaurs never went extinct?”
We begin elsewhere in our solar system. An object hurtles toward Earth. This of course is the meteor that supposedly wiped out the dinosaurs—but instead of wreaking devastation, it actually misses our planet (presumably with Bruce Willis’s help). Cool. New direction. Lots of possibilities. Perhaps a sequel is planned to follow the exploits of the little meteor.
As a result, dinosaurs continue as Earth’s dominant species, even progressing to farming and other human-like activities. How? Never mind that. It’s a kid film. After all, if 60’s rockers had never gone extinct, maybe they would have mastered hygiene, right?
We’ll never know.
The landscapes in this movie take your breath away. Dazzling to the eye, scene after scene makes you wonder if any film can ever top this. But amidst all the oohs and ahs, a disturbing element rears its head:
“This is too much for kids.”
Case in point: A cute little animal is eaten by an evil Pterodactyl right before your eyes--not off screen. Worse yet, you first see how cute the animal is, complete with big eyes and smiling, thinking it’s being saved—before being gobbled, tail still sticking out of the Pterodactyl’s mouth. Still worse, two other Pterodactyls reach in, tearing at the dead creature to get their share.
No, I’m not kidding. That’s wayyyyyyy too graphic for little kids.
And of course, there’s the now obligatory Bambi scene, where the little hero’s parent dies. At one point, a boy bites a head off a large bug—which was semi-funny, but still pretty shocking.
Graphic. Disturbing. Yikes.
Another problem plaguing “The Good Dinosaur” is, of all things, predictability. That seems odd, given its unique start, but the storyline is classic Pixar retread. Young character is cute. Young character suffers great loss—emotionally gripping young viewers. Young character gets wacky buddy—emotionally relieving young viewers. Young character and wacky buddy must find their way home. There are funny characters (especially a hilarious scene with groundhogs) and harrowing dangers along the way.
Just think Jurassic Nemo.
Our young hero is Arlo, a timid Apatosaurus voiced by Raymond Ochoa. Raised by Momma (Frances McDormand) and Poppa (Jeffrey Wright), Arlo wants to make his place on the family farm, but that’s difficult given him being, well, a little wimp—much smaller than his siblings. Seriously, if I ever wanted to become a bully, I’d use Arlo as a training wimp, before moving up to real wimps who might one day resist.
After tragedy strikes in a flood, Arlo finds himself lost. Trying to get home, Arlo slowly befriends a little human boy whom he names, “Spot” (voiced by Jack Bright), all while meeting good guys (some T-Rex’s operating as cattle ranchers) and villains (the aforementioned Pterodactyls). Set at an early stage of human development (or the reverted stage seen at college frat parties), Spot walks on all fours and acts like a dog. He barks. He pants. He growls and bites. Spot is a Dino’s best friend.
The movie’s message is simple: “Face your fears.” Unfortunately, the makers of “The Good Dinosaur” believe that shocking children—and their parents—is the best way to do this. To them, little ones must be desensitized sooner; become jaded, quicker. After all, it’s a Pterodactyl-eats-Thumper world out there, kids.
You know what I’d like? I’d like to sit these Hollywood filmmakers in a room. Then I’d bring in Grade School faculty who insist on sex education at earlier ages. They’d sit down, too. Then I’d bring in all the coked-out Disney girls of the past two decades. Sit, girls, sit.
Addressing these invasive preachers, I’d say, “Newsflash: No one asked you to raise their kids. Filmmakers should entertain. Teachers should equip. Coked-out Disney girls should scream at nurses during rehab. But raising kids? Deciding when it’s time for the next step? Why don’t you leave that to adults, ‘kay? Leave that to people who will still be there to pick up the pieces after you’ve gone back to your mansions and faculty lounges. Leave parenting to parents, because frankly, you’re not up to the task.”
Sorry. Sermon over.
Please understand, “The Good Dinosaur” has plenty of entertainment value. There are fun moments and a touching interaction describing the value of “family.” Great stuff. But sometimes, Disney and Pixar refuse to stop at the great stuff. That’s when things go from cute…
Pixar, let’s just stick with cute.