Nearly 40 years after its original counterpart, yes FORTY, Disney has continued their streak of live-action revivals with PETE’S DRAGON. Embodying the soul and quaint charm of the 70s classic, Walt Disney Pictures has managed to develop a reimagining of this epitome of a family friendly adventure film and make it as grandiose as possible while retaining its heartfelt gentle story. The revisited Pete’s Dragon is the quintessential Disney film stuffed with their brand of magic they’re known for – a true heartfelt tale that’s absolutely perfect for that young kid still daydreaming for a world filled with unimaginable creatures and that parent that misses believing in magic.
The original is by far too slow for the todays audience and has overwhelming shown its age. While the new Pete’s Dragon still has its somber moments that cause audiences to get restless, the pay off in the end is far too good to discredit it. Pete’s Dragon will leave a glimmer of joy in everyones heart along this boyhood journey though wild adventure and friendship leading to the ultimate kind of love, family.
Disney’s Pete’s Dragon follows an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott, a giant whimsical and somewhat magical dragon named after Pete’s favorite book. The old fables told by the ever endearing Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) of dragons from the deep forests of the north have been delighting children now for generations, but no one has ever taken his stories as reality. For his daughter Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”), these tales a far more meaningful as she has grown to be a lover of the forest and a conservationists ranger. Engaged to be married to a logger named Jack, Wes Bently (“American Horror Story”), she’s constantly striving to save trees from being unnecessarily cut. It’s when her and the timber cutting crew stumbles upon a mysterious 10-year-old boy Pete, Oakes Fegley, with no family and no home.
After claims of having a dragon-sized friend to help while he has been lost in the wilderness, it takes Grace to connect the dots that this may very well be the dragon her father has told tales about for all these years. Meanwhile, the lumber mill is threatening Elliot’s home and livelihood in a Beast like hunt. With a little help from Natalie, Oona Laurence, an 11-year-old daughter to Jack, they set out to understand Pete’s history and the truth behind this magical dragon.
Forgetting some pretty terrible dialogue and ridiculous non-acting from Karl Uban (“Star Trek”), Pete’s Dragon has some wonderful performances from Oakes Fegley and the beautiful Bryce Dallas Howard. Oakes is perfect fit to comical up-beat Pete from the original, and Bryce is incredibly motherly and sweet that you cant help but wish that this character was in your life. Robert Redford is your young able-being grandfather that just doesn’t give a crap what others think anymore.
It may take some help to forget the unbelievable-ness that a kid has been lost for 6 years in the forest due to a tragic car accident, whilst living with a giant green dragon that has an invisibility power, which is basically there to help move along the original story. However, Pete’s Dragon director and writer David Lowery has help bring to todays audiences a stunning, picturesque film that is as big as they come, yet manages to stay humble and small. The story is not complex, but it’s that timeless tale of mystery and the power of good will prevail that makes this re-telling still work for a very savvy new audience.
While conflict is mostly low, and any truly horrific images or deep subplots are shied away from in order to keep this a truly family friendly film, Pete’s Dragon doesn’t make an apologies for being stupidly cute and fun. Being set into a rather nondescript 70s/80s time period, David Lowery was able to capture some of the magical formula that has made Steven Spielberg’s movie last the test of time.
I have left out Elliot on purpose. The dragon is presented probably a little too quickly, but this adorable giant is hard to not feature. I feel not too much should be said about this CGI headliner as part of the wonder of the film is that he looks near believable. Elliot remains dragon-like, massive and scary at times, yet undeniably cute and puppy-like at others, even bearing the chipped bottom fang. CGI is king here as it’s not noticeable. That’s how it should be. Instead Elliot with all of his emotion and individual strands of hair just turns into just another character.
Pete’s Dragon is a warm lovely film with some big action, but merely is nothing more than a stroll through the forest with heartfelt characters and a cute story. The movie is perhaps debuting a little too soon to it’s adult counterpart Tarzan as the stories will have there similarities, but this simple film is far superior to the meaningless action packed movies of the summer. While at times perhaps even too gentle even to Disney standards, Pete’s Dragon should win the hearts of adults and the imagination of children for years to come.
Disney’s Pete’s Drago opens August 12th, 2016 in Theaters.