When was the last time you went wandering through a forest looking for an adventure? With PETE’S DRAGON, you get plenty of both. I admit, as a child who used to spend all day playing in the woods and grew up with the 1977 musical Pete’s Dragon, it was hard not to have expectations for a similarly lovable, yet campy film. But the David Lowery remake steers far away from the movie we grew up with.
The re-envisioned PETE’S DRAGON takes us on an adventure to a far more magical and decidedly less musical world.
The film starts by giving us a very Disney-esque opening, as we are thrown into the middle of an emotional rollercoaster watching young Pete become an orphan. Not wasting any time, Pete then immediately encounters Elliot, a playful dragon who willingly adopts the helpless toddler. We spend a large portion of the first half of the film watching Elliot and Pete’s friendship flourish to the point where it is totally believable he survived six years alone in the woods with no one by a dragon as a caretaker. The forest is their home and playground, and we get to watch and enjoy.
Lowery completely throws out the plot of the original film, including all of its quirky characters. Instead, we are introduced to a lovely forest ranger, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her fiancé Jack (Wes Bentley). Jack’s daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) shows us Disney continues its strong casting choices with talented children in lead roles. Together, Natalie and Pete (Oakes Fegley) remind us just how easy it is to believe in dragons.
The beautiful cinematography creates the perfect backdrop for this magical world. In addition, Lowery purposefully made the film “time-neutral” which leaves the audience with a nostalgic feeling wishing for a simpler time. It’s not quite 70s ,80s, or 90s but a sentimental love letter to the best memories of those times. There is a definite emotional response to the film and the themes of family and friendship soar in the story.
Still, the film is not without faults. The drawn out introduction to our characters left little time for a conflict, resulting a resolution that felt rushed. In addition, though much of the time was spent riding around on a dragon, there did not seem to be any additional benefit to seeing the film in 3D.
All in all, while not a jovial film, PETE’S DRAGON left the audience full of wonder. While dragons may not be real, I think a whole new generation of kids (and some adults) will be wishing for an Elliot of their own! Lowry definitely delivers continuing a Disney tradition of classic family films. Whether or not it has the makings to soar at the box office will be seen this weekend.
PETE’S DRAGON lands in theaters tomorrow, August 12, 2016.