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Weekend To-Do List

Friday, November 27, 2015

Pixar’s foray into Jurassic world is all-out fun

Maybe because it’s a second-tier Pixar production — nobody’s gonna confuse this with a "Toy Story" installment — "The Good Dinosaur" gets a little loosey-goosey at times.

Case in point: a scene in which two characters eat some psychedelic fruit and begin madly tripping, swapping heads and flying through the air. Haven’t seen animation quite like that since "Dumbo," or maybe "Alice in Wonderland."

It’s an exception in this movie, because most of "The Good Dinosaur" is firmly rooted on Earth. But not exactly the Earth we know: In the opening moments, the film suggests that the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs actually missed our planet, thus sparing the big reptiles.

That’s how, millions of years later, dinosaurs can co-exist with a precursor to homo sapiens. Yes, this film might be taken as a documentary in certain belief systems, but for now let’s accept the "what if" premise.

An undersized dino, Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), is born into a family of dinosaur farmers. That’s right, they plant and harvest corn — these are veggie-loving Apatosauruses. (If you’re worried about the plausibility of dinosaurs raising crops, you’re at the wrong movie.)

Poor Arlo is such a scaredy-dino he can’t even tend the prehistoric chickens without getting spooked. In true coming-of-age fashion, Arlo will be separated from the farm and taken on a wild adventure that builds character.

On his travels, Arlo befriends a human child, barely distinguishable from a growling animal. They team up, and eventually must defend themselves from a few menacing creatures.

It’s a very simple scenario by Pixar standards. But director Peter Sohn and his animators fill the frame with delights: rolling landscapes, wild animals, heavy weather. Fireflies take flight at night, and a melancholy, multi-horned dinosaur emerges from the forest — there’s apparently nothing the Pixar people can’t conjure up.

In the early days of computer-generated animation, a big problem was depicting water. It never looked right. Now it’s been perfected — in this movie, a dazzling river becomes a full-fledged character, a purveyor of both death and hope. (The film definitely earns a PG rating, not a G; there are some dark moments.)

Some of the sequences seem almost random, as when our heroes fall in with a T Rex dad (Sam Elliott) and the movie turns into a Western for a few minutes. Odd, but it’s all in the spirit of this shaggy outing.

"The Good Dinosaur" is preceded by a new eight-minute short film, "Sanjay’s Super Team," a single-joke cartoon with some imaginative animation.

"The Good Dinosaur" ???1/2

This dinosaur coming-of-age tale — in which the reptiles were never killed off by the asteroid and thus are still around to co-exist with humans — is a very simple scenario by Pixar standards. But what the animation wizards do with the material is dazzling, and the movie gets agreeably loosey-goosey at times.

Rating: PG, for subject matter

Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Pacific Place, Thornton Place Stadium 14, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-In, Cascade Mall

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