Pete's Dragon Movie Review
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Walt Disney has proven time and time again that, as a company focused on family entertainment, they generally know how to turn out good product after good product. This time around they’re going back to the drawing board, quite literally, to bring back to life a classic tale of an orphan and his dragon. In 1977 the world was introduced to a touching tale of friendship between two very unlikely characters. After almost 40 years it’s time to update and retell the same adventure. Will the new version of Pete’s Dragon be yet another treasure that should have stayed in the vault or has enough time passed to properly reintroduce this classic?
Little Pete (Oakes Fegley, This Is Where I Leave You (2014)) is traveling with his family in a car with his parents when the unthinkable happens. In an instant, Pete is all alone stranded in the middle of nowhere. It is in those following moments when something magical happens. Pete has caught the eye, and interest, of something from deep within the forest. As it turns out, a dragon comes to the young boy’s aid and takes him under his wing rather than leaving the child for dead. Over the years, Pete and his best friend Elliot become inseparable as the two explore, play and keep each other company. Their contentness turns to concern as more and more trees are being harvested for lumber and their perfect little oasis is on the verge of being discovered. One day Pete’s curiosity gets the best of him which leads to his discovery by one of the locals. Pete is brought back to civilization and all he wants to do is to get back to his dearest friend, Elliot.
Pete’s Dragon is a story of heartache, friendship, loyalty, family and new beginnings. There are many life lessons to be observed in the Disney remake. Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World (2015)) is the headstrong independent maternal presence that wants to take care of the remaining forest as well as all of its hidden treasures. Her father, played by Robert Redford (All Is Lost (2013)), often tells tall tales of a mysterious dragon living within these same forests. The kids hang on every word while many of the adults dismiss his stories. Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games (2012)) and Karl Urban (Star Trek Beyond (2016)) play brothers who work for the same company that is diligently working to clear way the trees to make for more land. Wes’ character, Jack is married to Bryce’s character, Grace. So you can imagine the dinner table talk between these two. Then there’s Grace and Jack’s young daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence, Southpaw (2015)) who befriends Pete and helps him understand how to become sociable and “more human” again. No one believes in a dragon living hidden within the trees until there’s enough evidence that cannot be ignored.
Pete’s Dragon is less about special effects and more about practical effects. Disney doesn’t go crazy with the CGI because, even though the dragon may be a main focal point, it isn’t the main focal point. Yes, much of the draw is the dragon itself. What gives this family movie its appeal is the evolving relationships between characters due to their being a dragon present. The story here is solid and it is weighted. Because of this, some children may find it a little boring at times. Overall though there is a good balance of emotion and action throughout.
Elliot the dragon can look scary at times while looking totally adorable at others. He’s not one of those talking, singing, wise cracking dragons that you might see in other Disney movies. Elliot speaks through actions and facial expressions. That is the beauty of a film like this. Even though Pete’s Dragon is fantasy film, director David Lowrey chose to keep things close to the original rather than resorting to the ploys of today’s family movies. And also to Lowrey’s credit, he keeps the feel and look of this updated 2016 version very close to that of the original.
Pete’s Dragon is fun for the entire family even though there are several more serious moments within the film’s duration. Speaking of duration, it runs 102 minutes so if you’re thinking of bringing little ones, you want to make note of that. Oakes Fegley is a star in the making as he has good on screen chemistry with his costars. Parents, or adults without children, there is no shame in wanting to see this remake because you were fans of the original. You should all be relatively pleased with the effort put into making this. You can check out Pete’s Dragon right now in theaters everywhere.