We went to see The Good Dinosaur, and I loved it.
I’ve never in my life gone shopping on Black Friday. And after this many years, I’m not about to give up that potentially winning point in a game of I Have Never. Without fail, however, I have found that Black Friday is a great day to see a movie, so Peter and I took the boys to see The Good Dinosaur.
Let me first say this: if you’re looking for warm and fuzzy, laugh-out-loud Pixar Good Feelings, or if you will have small children with you, this probably isn’t your winning choice. I’m going to straight up say right now, pick something else.
That said, I loved The Good Dinosaur.
For better or worse, I experience movies at a deep level. The lights go down, and I’m all in. All my filters are off, I let myself embrace what the film makers wanted me to experience, and in the end, my thumbs are up or down based on how well I could relate and empathize with the characters.
(Which definitely means that I will never—no, not ever—watch a horror movie with you or anybody else. Probably not even a suspense flick. Nope. I get all the feels, and I just don’t know how to distance myself. My dad has this ability to watch a movie that tears us all to bits, but then he can somehow simply comment on the brilliance of the acting. The acting? Who on that screen was acting just now?? As far as I’m concerned, these are real people living their real lives, and the least I can do is feel every single thing to the point of emotional manipulation and scars.)
So The Good Dinosaur is about a family who loses their dad, and the whole two hours unfold with one storyline after another of the youngest son’s courage to put one foot in front of the other and become a man. This, my friends, is a story I can wrap myself around and into.
And in case that’s not profound enough, I sat in the theater with my children and Peter, this man who has walked into our lives with promises to love us, to build courage, and to invest in these young men of mine. All of a sudden, these scenes unfolded with a magnitude I could very nearly taste.
Like when Henry, the dad dinosaur, built a silo for their family to store their corn for the winter. He teaches his children that they will each ‘make their mark’ with a muddy footprint on the stone wall, and each person earns their right to make their mark by doing something bigger than themselves. And he says, “Your mother will go first. Because if anybody has done the hard work around here, it’s your mom.”
(Peter had his hand on my knee, and he tapped my leg several times. As if to say, that’s you.)
And when Arlo is so resistant to all things courageous, and he cannot push through the fear he carries everywhere with him, and Arlo’s mother looks at her husband with a face of gentle hopelessness. Not because she doesn’t have hope in her son, but because she only knows how to nurture him. And that’s no longer what he needs.
(It’s a helpless single parenting moment when I’ve come to terms with the fact that all I seem to know is how to nurture. And you just can’t nurture a boy into becoming a man. He must cross the threshold on the wings of courage, not in a basket of coddling.)
So then Henry, the dad dinosaur, takes Arlo on a long walk, just the two of them, to teach him the magic of lightning bugs. To show him what he can do. To show him that he’s braver than he believes. And when he says to his son, “You are me, and more.”
Oh, my. I just… even now. Undone.
Or when Arlo is on his own in the wild, and he meets Spot, the toddler caveman. Which, by the way, let’s just take a moment to think about the outside-the-boxness of having animals rule the world and the people be their little pet-like friends. I mean, no, it’s not how it goes. And no, that’s not where you should get your theology. (Also don’t get your theology from the pterodactyls in the movie.) But it’s a smart shift of blue sky creativity.
Anyway, when he tries to explain to Spot that he misses his family, only to then realize he must teach him what is a family. So he lines up branches to represent his momma, his dad, and his brother and sister, and then he draws a circle around them in the sand. These are my family.
And then Arlo lays down one branch to show that his dad died… Oh, my great day. You guys, there are parents lighting up the interwebs with how unhappy they are over how this movie depicts death. But might I say, this movie most brilliantly portrays what happens to a child who has lost his dad. Perhaps the parents of the message boards are the ones who simply wish their children will never have to learn what it is at all.
Take it from this mom, who has to talk about it all too often: laying the tallest branch in the sand is a loving, gentle, heartbreakingly accurate way to say exactly what it means.
And then, when Arlo made it back home (spoiler alert… sorry-not-sorry), and his mom spies him from far away. She looks up, her eyes grow wide, and she whispers, “Henry…” In her grief, she thinks that this tall and courageous young man is merely a vision of her husband who died so long ago. I sat in this row with my tall boy who is the very vision of Robb, and all I can say is that scene was my undoing.
It’s a ridiculously good movie, and I haven’t even talked about the animation that looks like photography. Or the snake scene, when Tyler covered my eyes so fast he was afraid he’d get in trouble for smacking me in the face. (I do not do snakes.) (Do not.)
But the pinnacle turning point of the movie is this line: “You have to get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side.”
And that’s when I tapped Peter’s knee in reply, as if to say, That’s you. To me.