Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon

The Mouse House has a whole roster of live action remakes in the works, and while next year’s Beauty and the Beast is the one getting all the limelight at the moment, the redoing of 1977’s classic Pete’s Dragon seems to have slipped under the radar.

Similar to the original, Pete’s Dragon is about a young orphan boy who lives in the forest with his best friend Elliot – the dragon. When Pete is taken in by Grace, a caring Park Ranger who thinks he’s been surviving on his own in the wild, Pete tries to make everyone believe him about his dragon’s existence.

David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) directs, and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) stars alongside Robert Redford as this versions father/daughter duo that give Pete (Oakes Fegley, This is Where I Leave You) the family he’s unknowingly longing for. Changing the plot drastically from the original movie, Wes Bentley (American Horror Story: Hotel) plays Howard’s fiance, and the brilliant Oona Laurence (Southpaw) is his daughter.

This time round the villain isn’t the creepy Dr. Terminus, who want’s Elliot for his parts, but Gavin (Karl Urban, Star Trek Beyond), a lumberjack with a nasty side, who also happens to be Jack’s (Bentley) brother.

The story in this retelling is a lot simpler than the old movie, and a lot darker in parts too. While the ’77 version completely brushed over what happened to Pete’s parents, this one definitely doesn’t, and there’s a perilous scene near the end that puts this film very much in the same boat as the other more grown up and less comical Disney remakes.

Director Lowery said in interviews that he gave Elliot fur instead of scales to make him cuddly, and boy has he. The original’s cartoon Elliot, with his big belly and tiny wings, was indeed a cuddly best friend for Pete, but Lowery has done an amazing job in making CGI Eliot big and scary enough to be appealing to today’s desensitised youth, while still keeping the dopey personality, bumbling voice and cuddly body fans of the original adore.

Image credit: Disney/Entertainment Weekly

The lack of adorable and cheesy songs is a small shame, but not surprising seen as the likes of Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too) probably wouldn’t fit in with the aesthetic of the movie. These Disney remakes are all following a more serious version of the classic Disney tales.

Despite the huge plot changes, and the somewhat simplified story, David Lowery has done the original classic justice, while creating a film new generations will hold dear to their heart. Let’s hope more of the live action remakes follow suit.


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