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Pixar’s latest animated feature,The Good Dinosaur, has a couple of things going for it. First, it’s a classic quest story. Arlo, a likeable, fearful young dinosaur is separated from his family and must travel a long distance through unknown terrain to make his way home. More notably, the animation of the landscape is stunning. When there are no creatures in the frame, you could be forgiven for thinking you are watching a nature documentary. The American northwest, including Yellowstone and the Tetons, inspired artwork that shows a deep appreciation and awe of natural beauty.

Those qualities take what would otherwise be just a variation on the old Land Before Time series and elevate The Good Dinosaur to a higher level. But it still falls short of the kind of all-around excellence that Pixar usually delivers. The characters don’t have the kind of depth we have come to expect from the studio. And even though the story seems geared toward younger children, there are several moments that might be quite terrifying for those young ones. Which is sort of ironic, since Arlo is fighting his own fears in the movie, a theme that lacks depth in the same way the characters do.

Some parents may find more to object to. The premise of the movie is that the asteroid that would’ve hit the earth millions of years ago missed, and therefore the dinosaurs were never decimated. Instead, they lived on and evolved into farmers and ranchers. Humans are in the early stages of evolution—so Spot, the young boy who becomes Arlo’s new friend, is more dog than person.

Watch this if you love seeing the new advances in animation. But as far as storytelling goes, it’s just so-so. (Disney/Pixar)

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