REVIEW — “Pete’s Dragon (2016)”
“In an adventure, you’ve got to be brave.”
A straightforward dramatic remake of Disney’s own 1977 live-action/animated/musical hybrid of the same name, Pete’s Dragon embraces the premise of “believing is seeing,” and the result is a delightfully, heart-warming family film that is one part indie-drama and another part fantasy/adventure that is destined to become a Disney classic.
Following what is perhaps the most tenderly-shot car accident ever filmed, an orphaned Pete is lost in the deep, dark forest of the Pacific Northwest. Scared and alone, the child quickly encounters Elliot, a giant, green-furred, flying dragon. The gentle beast takes young Pete under his massive wings – becoming the lone protector of the boy for the next six years.
Now a wild, long-haired 10 year-old, Pete (Oakes Fegley) and his wandering curiosity accidentally lead to the pair’s discovery by civilization – which comes in the form of local Millhaven Forest Ranger, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her extended family.
An environmentalist who believes that seeing is believing, Grace is dismissive of her father, Mr. Meacham’s (Robert Redford) decades-old claim of encountering a mythical dragon in the nearby forest. Grace is also engaged to Jack (Wes Bentley) whose logging company is encroaching on the woods that Pete and Elliot call home.
While on-site, Jack’s young daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) catches Pete’s eye which results in Grace’s “rescue” of the boy. After discovering his true identity, Pete attempts to escape back to the woods. However, his attempt is not only thwarted by local law enforcement, but also by his own growing attachment to Grace’s family which triggers an internal struggle on where he truly belongs in this world.
As Elliot frantically searches for Pete, questions about Pete’s six year survival and his own claims of living with a friendly dragon raise the suspicions of Jack’s brother Gavin (Karl Urban), who mounts a hunt into the forest for a beast that might not be so mythical after all.
Shaggy, clumsy and playfully innocent, Elliot the dragon is really just a large dog… who can also fly, camouflage himself and breathe fire. The flight scenes with Pete and Elliot are visually exhilarating and provide a welcomed callback to Atreyu and his luckdragon, Falcor in The Neverending Story.
A familiar story about a boy and his best friend, director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), has crafted a simple tale about loyalty, bravery and the bond of friendship much in the vein of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and The Iron Giant. It is a family-centric fantasy, both wholesome in its delivery and beautiful in its presentation.
To see magic in the world, you have to be open to looking for it. Pete’s Dragon, another well-made, live action Disney remake, delivers on that promise with a magical adventure worth seeing. 4/5