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The Good Dinosaur: a movie review

Disney Pixar's newest offering, The Good Dinosaur, faces a difficult task from the start as it will inevitably be compared to the company's last movie, Inside Out, which has been hailed as one of the better animated films in many years. On top of those insurmountable comparisons, the film had to go through several re-writes that saw many of its original voice-cast replaced before the final version. Despite those trials, it is still an enjoyable family film that, in typical Pixar fashion, makes the audience laugh one minute and fight back a few tears the next.

The Good Dinosaur is set in a world where the asteroid believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs narrowly missed the planet. Instead, they were given the chance to continue evolving and, by the time the action picks back up a few million years later, we find a family of apatosarus (think brontosaurus but a bit smaller) clearing land for their farm. The film centers on the story of Arlo, the runt of the family, who wants so desperately to make his mark by contributing something of value. His mother and father assure him that his time will come and that he has the potential to do great things, but he is constantly constrained by the limitations of his own self-doubt and fear.

After tragedy strikes the family, Arlo is left with an even greater need to prove himself coupled with ever increasing doubts about his ability to do so. However, it's not until he falls into a river and is swept downstream after chasing the young boy he holds responsible for that tragedy that he really begins to face those doubts. Despite initially hating the child, who functions more as a dog than a person (complete with eventually garnering the name Spot), Arlo has to depend on him in order to survive and eventually the two grow quite close as they begin to recognize the shared sense of tragedy that has defined each of their lives.

On the trek home, Arlo and Spot encounter a number of different creatures who, in their own unique ways, help Arlo begin to realize the potential that others have seen in him from the start. By the end of the film, their collective influence helps him move beyond the self-imposed limitations of his fears and doubts in order to make his mark on the family.

In much the same way, God has given each of us vast potential to do great things for his kingdom. However, like Arlo, we don't always realize it. We can let self-doubt and fear cloud the image in which we were created and keep us from fulfilling that purpose. That's why it's so important that we pursue our calling as part of the body of Christ rather than on our own.

In Acts 15, we find the story of Paul and Barnabas dividing over the issue of John Mark. Barnabas wanted to take him on their next journey while Paul was steadfastly unwilling to risk John Mark deserting them again as he had done on a previous trip. While John Mark never speaks in this passage, you get the sense that he might have actually agreed with Paul more than Barnabas at this point. But because Barnabas believed in him and was there to help him work through any lingering sense of self-doubt and fear, John Mark was able to grow into someone that Paul would later describe as "helpful to me in my ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11).

When we face times of doubt, it is crucial that we have other believers that can help us work through it to realize the potential God has placed in each of us. By the same token, we must also be ready and willing to help others work through similar issues in their own lives.

So who do you know that needs a Barnabas today? Maybe it's you. Whatever the case may be, know that God has given you the potential to do great things for his kingdom, both through living out your own calling and by helping others realize theirs. But we can't do that if we are trying to walk this Christian life alone. Ultimately, we need other believers just as much as they need us.

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