‘Pete’s Dragon’ Soars Above and Beyond Expectations

GameStop, Inc.

petes-dragon-0001

In recent years, Disney has been betting heavily on live action remakes of their vast catalogue of animated movies. This has produced mixed results in terms of quality (ranging from the dreadful Alice in Wonderland and its sequel to the excellent Jungle Book), but has delivered consistent returns in box office receipts. The latest Disney animated film to get the live action treatment is Pete’s Dragon, an updating of the 1977 original from director David Lowery. While I saw the original in elementary school during rainy recesses, I don’t recall much of the details of the film. But that doesn’t matter, because this version of Pete’s Dragon is marvelous piece of cinema, a wondrous tale with a surprisingly strong emotional core. When viewing Pete’s Dragon be sure you are well stocked on tissues, because there may not be a dry eye in the house.

After a car accident on a secluded road leaves his parents dead, Pete (played in his younger years by Levi Alexander) wanders into the surrounding forest, where he encounters a massive green dragon. Six years later, Pete (Oakes Fegley) and his beloved dragon Elliot live far from civilization, roaming the vast wilderness with playful enthusiasm. The two are inseparable and Pete reads to Elliot from the lone children’s book from his past. In these opening scenes, the entire emotional core of Pete’s Dragon is established. It’s truly astounding just how well-crafted the digital dragon is at conveying emotion through facial expressions with grunts and growls. Elliot is one of the truly great CGI characters of recent memory.

Meanwhile, in the town of Millhaven, Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) tells tall tales to the town’s children of his encounter with a dragon. His daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), a forest ranger, laughs off her father’s tales as embellishments from an old man wanting to impress little children. Grace is engaged to Jack (Wes Bentley), who works at a local lumber mill with his overeager brother Gavin (Karl Urban). One day, Jack’s daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) spies Pete watching from afar and runs into the forest after the mysterious boy, who is soon discovered by the adults who transport him back into town. Though they have good intentions, the adults never realize that they’re separating Pete from his closest family member in the green dragon Elliot. As the adults along with Sheriff Gene Dentler (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) try to find the origins of Pete and re-assimilate him into society, Gavin has an encounter with the dragon and is motivated to hunt and capture the beast for his own glory.

The updated screenplay by director Lowery and Toby Halbrooks features plenty of moments that tug mightily on the heartstrings. The movie does open with a child losing parents, after all. But Lowery creates a film that hits on such a wide range of emotional responses, from humor to heartbreak. The fact is Pete’s Dragon is oozing with sentimentality, but what wildly effective sentimentality it is. It never hurts a movie to have Robert Redford intoning wisdom and optimism in the face of skepticism, with that undying charm employed for the purposes of heartwarming magic.

Not everything in Pete’s Dragon is as effective as its emotional core. There are number of song choices in the movie that are questionable at best. Time and time again, the soundtrack features these sedate hipster takes on country music that seem like they were repurposed from some generic coffee commercial. The film does culminate with a car chase and action scene that seems to come out of a place of obligation to spectacle. Though he certainly does the most with the material, Karl Urban’s character is just an underwritten generic bad guy, characteristics much more defined than motivation.

The heart and soul of Pete’s Dragon comes from the digitally crafted Elliot and a strong performance from young Oakes Fegley. It’s a testament to the cinematic abilities of Lowery and his crew and to the talent of the underage leading man that they were able to craft such a connection between Pete and Elliot, one that has the audience emotionally invested in everything that happens to the two of them. I have no shame in admitting that I teared up a number of times at the relationship between the two, especially at one point where the massive dragon gives his best friend a hug.

At a time where audiences are inundated with subpar reboots and remakes, Pete’s Dragon seems like a miracle that flew under the radar before soaring right in front of our eyes. There’s little need to seek out the film in 3D as the effect does little for the film’s already strong visuals and only works to darken the images. Also, the 3D glasses interfere with your ability to wipe tears from your eyes as the film hits every emotional beat with maximum effectiveness. There’s little to suggest that Disney is going to ease up in their remakes of their animated catalogue, but as long as they keep hiring talented filmmakers like David Lowery that are able to craft moments of wonder and awe in the midst of a touching story, they can just keep on churning them out.

Pete's Dragon
  • Overall Score
4

Summary

A heartwarming adaptation of the 1977 animated film, Pete’s Dragon features astounding special effects that are grounded with an earnest emotional core.

Anytime Costumes

No Responses

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three’ – Leaves us Wanting More! – Spoiler Free Review

‘Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths – Part Three‘ is a...

‘Lumina’ is a Incredible First for Debuting Director, Gino McKoy – Review

‘Lumina‘ is an incredible concept and an exceptional first run for...

Aaron Augenblick Returns for Season 2 of ‘City Island’ on PBS KIDS – Interview

Acclaimed Animator, Aaron Augenblick Returns with a Second Season of ‘City...

Event News Event Reviews
The ‘California Dreams’ Band Reunite on The Sunset Strip For a Night of 90s Nostalgia – Concert Review

Don’t Wake Me Up if I’m Dreaming, The ‘California Dreams‘ Band...

Jay Anthony Franke Talks California Dreams Reunion Concert in LA – Interview

Jay Anthony Franke Talks About The ‘California Dreams‘ Reunion Concert in...

‘An Inspector Calls’ Challenges the Morals of the Bourgeois – Review

‘An Inspector Calls‘ Challenges the Morals and Ethics of the Bourgeois...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Derek Gumin Talks Planet 13 and UFC 303 Meet and Greets – Interview

Director of Wholesale Accounts at Planet 13, Derek Gumin spoke about...

Oscar De La Hoya Partners with El Rey for ‘Friday Night Fights’ – Interview

The Golden Boy himself chatted with us about Golden Boy Promotions...

Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Blood on the Cactus, Endgame

Mhuhahahahahahahah!

Fantoy Comics Presents: A 4th of July Message!

Seriously, America, THIS crap?!?!?

Fantoy Comics Presents – Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse: Blood on the cactus pt 4 (?)

There are some weird guys here that want invest in a...

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Billy Eddy Talks His new Book ‘Our New World of Adult Bullies’ – Interview

Lawyer, Mediator and Personality Expert Bill Eddy Provides a Six-Step Strategy...

Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...