A BOY-AND-HIS-DOG STORY where the boy is a talking dinosaur and the dog is a little grunting caveman, The Good Dinosaur is one of Pixar's best. It's just about guaranteed to make you laugh and also probably cry, and it's gorgeous to look at, and it features a cowboy Tyrannosaurus rex that has Sam Elliott's voice, which isn't a thing that anyone of us even knew we wanted, but now, clearly, is the apex of human artistic achievement. All of these things come together in The Good Dinosaur, a movie that's great and that you should go see on a big screen so that you can remember, if only for a couple of hours, that life isn't always terrible.
Oh, terrible things happen, for sure, both in life and in The Good Dinosaur—this thing opens with a tragedy that makes Bambi's mom getting shot seem like a minor inconvenience. And it isn't long after that until young, anxious Apatosaurus Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) finds himself lost in the wilderness, desperate to find his way back home, even as an annoying pipsqueak caveman, Spot (Jack Bright), grunts and crawls after him wherever he goes.
Do Arlo and Spot eventually become friends? What do you think. Do they become best friends? Of course they do, and it's fucking delightful.
But there's also legitimate danger—with each one of Arlo's gangly steps, and whenever Spot scuttles and jumps, the possibility of death, be it from nature or other dinosaurs or starvation, hangs overhead. Arlo and Spot are cute, but it's also rare that they feel safe—the world is a legitimately big, scary place, The Good Dinosaur says, and the only way to survive it is to accept both its complexity and danger.
And about that world: While The Good Dinosaur's characters are rendered in Pixar's usual emotive, cartoony style, the landscapes around them are near photorealistic in detail, color, and movement. Director Peter Sohn has a reverence for the natural world—and an ability to anchor these characters and themes to its primordial beauty—that wouldn't feel out of place in a Terrence Malick joint. Watching Arlo and Spot make their way through dense forests, over sparse plains, up craggy mountains, and across rushing rivers, is, with each frame, stunning to look at. The seemingly disparate art styles of the characters and their environment end up dovetailing in graceful, unexpected ways: Arlo and Spot have all the charm and emotion that comes from stylized animation, but they're also grounded by the detailed, organic world around them. A world that, with all of its beauty and danger, looks a lot like ours.