#REVIEW: “PETE’S DRAGON”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
In this age of Remakes, it is easy to become jaded when one hears a studio plans to recreate a beloved classic for a new audience. The old audience was perfectly content with the original, thank you very much. Occasionally, however, this formula of modern twists and fresh faces works and breathes new magic into old stories and cynical critics alike. Such is the case with Director David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon.
In traditional Disney fashion, the Movie opens by quickly disposing of young Pete’s parents. Lost and alone in the woods, Pete narrowly escapes becoming dinner for a pack of wolves thanks to an unlikely savior: an enormous winged dragon whom he names Elliot. The story fast forwards six years to Meachum (Robert Redford) telling children the legend of the Millhaven Dragon. His daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a forest ranger with no time for silly myths. The biggest problem in Grace’s otherwise pleasant life is her fiancé (Wes Bentley) and his overzealous brother Gavin (Karl Urban). The two brothers are loggers with seemingly little care for the forest Grace loves, past how much money they can make off its trees.
When Grace’s future step-daughter Natalie (Southpaw’s Oona Laurence) finds Pete in the forest, a makeshift family is quickly formed while attempting to trace the young boy’s origins. Meanwhile, a gun-wielding Gavin has inadvertently found Elliot who is desperate to find his missing human.
The adults in this Movie are merely window dressing for the two stars: young Oakes Fegley as Pete and his CGI acting partner, the delightful Elliot. While not at all scary, Elliot manages to appear more like a delightful, overgrown puppy than a terrifying mythological creature. It is easy to believe this dragon cared for and nurtured a young human; his eyes silently convey more emotion than some of his human costars manage with pages of dialogue.
The themes of faith and family are addressed subtly in the Movie. Writers Lowery and Toby Halbrooks also use a deft touch dealing with the environmental issues in the Movie. The destruction of Pete and Elliot’s habitat in the forest due to clearcutting is achingly tragic for the viewer as they watch innocence of these characters die with each fallen branch.
Any Movie starring a furry green dragon requires the audience to take a leap of faith: they must believe in the impossible and want the improbable to be real. Pete’s Dragon asks all of this and delivers in spades. Older children and adults alike will fall in love with Elliot and wish a little magic into their own all too dull lives.
Walt Disney Motion Pictures Canada release PETE’S DRAGON on Friday, August 12, 2016.