Pete's Dragon is a 2016 remake of the 1977 live action Disney film of the same name. It's directed by David Lowery and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Robert Redford, and Karl Urban.
Pete is a young boy who loses his parents and finds himself lost and alone in the middle of the woods. He is discovered by a giant, green dragon who decides to take care of him. Pete names the dragon Elliott, the name of a dog in Pete's favorite book. For the next six years, Pete and Elliott live in harmony together. However, a park ranger named Grace (Howard) begins to explore the part of the forest where Pete and Elliott live. At the same time, a group of lumberjacks begin chopping down trees in the same area. Pete is soon discovered by Grace and the people of the nearby town, putting his friendship with Elliott, as well as Elliott's secrecy, at risk.
Disney has been hitting all of the right buttons so far with their live action remakes of some of their decades-old animated films. We had Cinderella and then The Jungle Book, both of which were notably successful. Given the polarizing, less-than-satisfactory reception of the 1977 live action Pete's Dragon, Disney certainly felt the story of Pete and Elliott deserved a second chance. Although it bears the burden of following up The Jungle Book, Pete's Dragon is Disney's most recent proof of how they can still find a way to tug at the heartstrings. The film is a pleasant viewing for people of all ages, and it has a sweet, charming quality that cannot be denied.
- The sweetness and emotional depth. Pete's Dragon is not a mushy tearjerker, and it does not try to be one. It makes you laugh with Elliott acting as a goofy dog, and also charms you with the euphoric friendship between Pete and Elliott. When the two are separated, you can understand Pete's gloomy situation; he's a young boy with no other friends or family, and he's surrounded by a world of unknowns, with practically no knowledge of their culture. Perhaps you could even sympathize with him, if you know the feeling of losing a close friend. The film knows when to be humorous, and when to be emotional. Most importantly, the film never tries to shove these feelings down your throat.
- The action sequences. I was rather surprised by the action that takes place in the film. It really provides the film with excitement to complement the sweetness and emotional depth. There is one scene in particular involving a "gentle" car chase (by gentle, I mean it has no explosions and doesn't resemble anything you'd see from Fast & Furious or Jason Bourne), and Elliott destroying a bridge which was really well done. Other action scenes involving Elliott are riveting and will have you cheering for the heroes to succeed.
- Pete's Dragon has a theme involving environmental protection, but it just seems to dangle with no exploration. Forest trees are getting cut down by mill workers, and our "good guys" frown upon this. Because the forest is being destroyed, Pete and Elliott's home are endangered. Hmm, am I seeing a relation to the story of Avatar? The movie doesn't preach anything related to global warming or the environment, but it appears to be a theme that the film wants to explore, but just simply doesn't. Then again, there is more to convincing us about saving the environment other than just saying, "We can't let them cut all the trees down!"
- The villain. The bad guy in Pete's Dragon is nothing more than just your average, run-of-the-mill a**hole. He wants to catch Elliott for obvious reasons, and also because there just has to be that one person who needs to screw everything up. There's nothing special about the villain; no interesting character trait of any kind. He's just bad, and that's it.
It may not reach the soaring heights that The Jungle Book did, but Pete's Dragon is still another strong addition to the Disney live action remake library. It's sweet, charming, and has a reasonable amount of exciting action to enhance the experience. Kids and adults of all ages will find some semblance of a takeaway from Pete's Dragon.
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