Pete’s Dragon review by Bobby Blakey
Disney has been on a role as of late taking some of their popular animated features and bringing them into the real world with live action versions. Now one of the most beloved and inventive features that blended live action and animation is getting the new treatment with Pete’s Dragon starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence and Robert Redford, but does it have any of the magic of the original film or should it just disappear?
Pete’s Dragon follows old wood carver Mr. Meacham who has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace, who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales until she meets Pete. Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliot. And from Pete’s descriptions, Elliot seems remarkably similar to the dragon from Mr. Meacham’s stories. With the help of Natalie, an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack owns the local lumber mill, Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon. Fans of the original will no doubt be a bit put off with the idea of this remake, but to be clear this is not a remake, but a reimagining of the story. The story has similar elements, but as a whole is an entirely new direction and it works. Here we get a little more about how Pete and Elliott came together without them trying to force a dragon origin story down our throats. Instead, you just have to accept that he exits and move forward. They did a great job bringing this new version of the story to life that plays up very much like E.T. in tone and direction.
The cast all do a good job with their roles with Oakes Fegley as Pete really carrying the biggest emotional baggage. He doesn’t have a ton to say in the film which makes sense of the story much like Elliott yet they say so much to each other. They perfectly craft their relationship to one that you can see means something and is more than just a kid playing with this creature. These are two characters that love each other like family and it shines through. There are some cheesy lines and some clunky editing but nothing that overly ruins the film as a whole. I loved that we don’t have to wait the entire film to Elliot, but instead he shows up right away and allows the audience to spend a lot of time with him. While his design is a bit different than the original obviously you can see the tried to bring some realism while keeping a very similar design complete with the same abilities and sounds that he makes.
As a whole this was a surprisingly great family adventure full of beautiful visuals, emotional moments and friendship like no other. Fans of the original need to give this a chance and see it for the new take on the story that it is as opposed to thinking it is just a remake. Those making this film clearly loved the source material and looked to bring something fresh and new to a whole new generation and succeeded.