The Good Dinosaur confirms the traditional family unit is not extinct

by Bob Brown
Posted 11/28/15, 09:00 am

The Good Dinosaur opens 65 million years ago when what would be an Earth-shattering meteor narrowly misses the planet. Consequently, dinosaurs live on and evolve into farmers, while humans lag behind the Darwinian 8-ball. Some viewers might have a fossilized bone to pick with the convoluted origins mythology, but the film strongly promotes the traditional family unit structure.

A young Apatosaurus, Arlo, and his vegetarian family lead a peaceful life tilling the land. Arlo wants to make his mark on the world, but his timidity holds him back. His father doesn’t berate him for failure but tenderly shepherds him. Not far into the story, Arlo’s father dies, and the young dinosaur becomes separated from his family.

Arlo teams up with Spot, a nonverbal Neanderthal boy who apparently has no family. Spot wears only a leaf loincloth and crawls on all fours, behaving like a feral dog. His ferocity complements Arlo’s faintheartedness and comes in handy as they journey together through the wild in search of Arlo’s home. Along the way, they fight off ravenous pterodactyls and encounter a host of other unusual creatures, like a family of Tyrannosaurus rex buffalo herders. In one of the film’s engaging visuals, the two-legged, long-fanged gauchos gallop like horses. The patriarch, Butch, bears a strong resemblance to the late Jack Palance’s City Slickers persona, Curly.

The Good Dinosaur (rated PG for peril, action, and thematic elements) is not Pixar’s best film—how could they ever duplicate Toy Story’s incomparable cast of personalities? But its quirky scenes and oddball characters will largely keep viewers’ interest, as will the film’s computer artwork. It’s easy to under-appreciate high-quality CGI, commonplace in cinema today, but give credit where it’s due: Distant vistas and close-ups of claws both hold up extraordinarily well under the big screen’s magnification.

The film’s most fascinating aspect, though, is how the story holds up the traditional family unit. Just when you thought households with both a dad and a mom were going the way of the dinosaur, Hollywood messages the culture with the affirmation of a child’s need for his father’s guidance and mother’s nuzzling.

Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

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