I wasn’t overly excited about this latest Pixar offering. I’d seen the trailers and thought it was a little off-putting to have a cartoony dinosaur dancing around some very photo-real landscapes. Watching the movie, though, it was the furthest thing from my mind. The animation is stunning. I particularly loved the bits with water, the reflective surfaces sparkling in the sun. It was gorgeous.
But there’s a great little story that goes along with it, about a boy and his dog, Spot. Except the boy is a longneck dinosaur named Arlo, and the dog is in fact a boy, named Spot. This movie is set in a make believe time when the dinosaurs never went extinct so they’re living at the same time as humans. Little Arlo is living peaceably on the family farm (I LOVED to see dinosaurs discover agriculture) with his parents and siblings when a “critter” starts raiding their food stores. Spot is a mangy, hungry, feral critter, and the two are at odds until the script conspires to cast them off on an adventure together.
The movie had me both belly-laughing and fat-tear crying within its first 20 minutes. Neither the tears nor the laughs let up, either. It’s a fairly simple story with a lot of Pixar heart. It’s quiet for long stretches (the dinosaurs talk; humans do not) but the characters are so facially expressive and nuanced, you don’t miss it. And every scene they walk through is a painting, with depth of field and detail enough to keep your hungry eyes constantly eating up the scenery (we saw it in 3D).
This movie is probably more relatable to younger kids than Inside Out was, but there are some mature themes here as well. Arlo and Spot live in nature, which is both cruel and kind. The potential for harm is more present in this movie than in other children’s fare, and they don’t shy away from death and grief either.
Sean was a little less moved by the film than I was (which, I suppose, is always the case) but I felt quite emotionally connected to it. Maybe it’s because Spot reminded me a lot of my little nephew Jack, both in looks and in temperament (Jack’s Papa calls him ‘Joe Pesci’, completely endearingly, for his wildman ways, though Jack is not yet 2). And maybe it’s because of the very simple but very moving and dignified way they deal with loss. At any rate, I’d say it’s a welcome addition to the Pixar family and a worthy way to spend your time and money at the cinema. I wish I could get in there and tweak the ending just a smidge (let me know how you felt about it), but overall I walked out with puffy eyes but a singing heart.
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