Review: Pete’s Dragon Is A Quiet And Heartwarming Family Movie
Title: Pete’s Dragon
Director: David Lowery
Screenplay: David Lowery and Toby Halbrooks
Principal Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, and Wes Bentley
Summary: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.
I went into Pete’s Dragon with a unique look on the movie; the original is one of the few Disney movies that I haven’t seen. It came out well before I was born and we never got it on VHS at my house. I thought about watching the original before I saw this re-make but I decided against it at the last minute. I thought it might be best to judge the movie not only on its own terms but also like one of the kids in the audience would experience it. Disney has had an up and down year as far as movies go with some hitting the mark (Jungle Book) with others misstepping (The BFG) so it seems the House of Mouse is having an interesting year.
Pete’s Dragon feels like it takes a bit to get going but once it does it’s the best kind of family friendly punch in the gut.
I’ve been informed that this re-make has almost nothing to do with the original, so for those of you who have seen the original it sounds like it would be best to put it out of your mind. The thing that makes movies like this work is the relationship between Elliot and Pete (Oakes Fegley) and in this it works. The fact that Elliot is masterfully designed and imagined helps a lot. He’s very cute for a giant dragon and the way they have made him very expressive (despite not letting him talk) is great. He’s animated and you know how he’s feeling based on his eyes more than anything. The eyes can often be the sticking point in animation but, in this case, you can see everything behind Elliot’s as if he were a real dragon.
There is some great supportive work done as well as the movie brings in Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban and even the often unseen Wes Bentley. These characters are all interesting in their own right but they are mostly there to help Pete along on his journey. There isn’t much of a villain, aside from Urban stomping around wanting to show the world Elliot exists, but he never really feels evil. The real conflict is whether or not Pete goes back to the real world after being in the woods with Elliot for so long. The rest of the characters are just roadblocks and bumps along the way.
The movie isn’t perfect. It feels a little long despite being only 108 minutes and the beginning is a little odd. While it’s important that we see Elliot and Pete together the movie feels more than half over by the time Pete is finally introduced to the rest of the characters. Like I said there isn’t much of a villain and Pete seems oddly well adjusted for someone who has been living in the woods as long as he has. They don’t spend a lot of time on explaining this, and it’s easily ignored, but it is a plot hole.
Pete’s Dragon is another Disney entry that can be enjoyed by parents and children alike. I see this being another movie where the sad parts make the children uncomfortable for fear that they will stay sad and the parents in the audience will shed a tear as well, and while it isn’t a true classic when it counts Pete’s Dragon soars.