Pete’s Dragon

Petes-Dragon-Featured-061320161I am old enough to feel like I should remember the original Pete’s Dragon (which was released in 1977). I know that I saw it as a kid but it definitely did not stick with me. Because of that, I would have had no expectations going into the 2016 version of Pete’s Dragon but for the very positive reviews it has been getting. The new Pete’s Dragon did not resonate with me to quite that degree, but it is a good family movie that I think kids will love. It also may make you wish you had a pet dragon.

Elliot the dragon is probably the best part of this movie and the reason I think kids will go head over heels for Pete’s Dragon. More dog than wild beast, he seems like the perfect companion if you’re stranded in the Pacific Northwest. Even if you’re only stranded metaphorically. Elliot can fly, he can turn invisible, and builds the best tree forts ever! What more could a kid ask for in a mythological friend?bigdragon.0

The human characters in Pete’s Dragon are far less compelling. All of them are one dimensional, existing only to contribute whatever is needed to move the story along.  Bryce Dallas Howard likes nature so she protects the dragon. BDH’s stepdaughter likes Pete so she helps. Karl Urban is BDH’s greedy and bored soon-to-be brother in law, who we know will learn a lesson by the end. Robert Redford is BDH’s father, the old guy who tells stories about the dragon and who fortunately can also drive an 18 wheeler. Wes Bentley is just kind of there because someone decided that BDH needed a fiance and the stepdaughter needed a father and Urban needed a brother.

I wanted more depth from these characters and maybe older kids will too. But ten-year-old me would not have cared one bit about character development when there’s a flying green dragon on display! A fantastic-looking, furry, CG dragon. The visuals in Pete’s Dragon are awesome, both when it comes to Elliot and when it comes to displaying the gorgeous forest/mountain vistas of the northern west coast. The combination of Elliot and the beautiful backdrops is more than enough to keep adults entertained, even with paper-thin characters at every turn.

petes-dragon-4Just don’t expect there to be a clear message. Lately, Disney (/Pixar) has been doing well at including big coherent themes in kids’s movies, from Inside Out to Zootopia to Finding Dory. There is no clear message here to be found.  There are environmental and family threads sewn but no coherent payoff is ever delivered.

Still, that’s not so much a complaint against Pete’s Dragon as a reminder that Disney (/Pixar) has given us some classics in the last year. Pete’s Dragon does not quite measure up to that high standard but it is still a good family movie and moreover, a movie that this childless adult greatly preferred to its polar opposite counterprogramming, the joyless Sausage Party.

Pete’s Dragon gets a score of seven fuzzy dragons out of ten.

 

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22 thoughts on “Pete’s Dragon

  1. Jay

    The dragon was very well done. Furry and puppy-like, not scaly and scary. He pants and sniffs and sleeps with his tummy exposed like a puppy too.

    Probably not suitable for the 4 and under crowd – one such little girl constantly needled her father – can we go now? Can we go NOW? Now? She was not into it at all. She also wouldn’t wear the 3D glasses and without them she couldn’t have seen the movie even if she occasionally wanted to. I would say not to bother with 3D for adults either – it didn’t add much.

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    1. tubularsock

      Well that only goes to show that some children are brighter than adults. The kid probably prefers “real-life” and 3D glasses make you dizzy! Maybe there is hope for the future yet.

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  2. tubularsock

    Well thank the Gods for Pixar! Only their “magic” could create the necessary “gorgeous forest/mountain vistas of the northern west coast” with the amount of clear-cutting that has taken place over the years.

    Today’s children will be able to reflect back when they are adults that ….. once there were dragons but all the trees are gone.

    All that aside Sean, Tubularsock still is hung up on Puff-The-Magic-Dragon and doesn’t want to divide his loyalty. Great review however!

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  3. Khalid Rafi

    I LOVED David Lowery’s debut film, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, I think it’s evident, just by watching that, that he’s an incredibly gifted filmmaker and and with all the positive response this is getting, I feel like I might just have to check it out.

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  4. J.

    I quite fancy this. Probably cause I liked the original flick and reckon dragons are ace. I’ll likely catch this on DVD … maybe set up a double-bill with Reign Of Fire! Hurrah!

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  5. Christopher

    The original “Pete’s Dragon” was the first film that I saw in the theater and didn’t like. The songs were annoying and came out of nowhere and the combination of a cartoon dragon and live action was just too jarring. I was actively rooting for Dr. Terminus and still think he’s the best part of the movie.
    When I saw a trailer for the remake my first thought was, “Looks like they got it right this time.”
    And in spite of its flaws it does sound like a big improvement. Hey, not all remakes are bad.

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  6. That Other Critic

    People hate (or at least dislike) the original Pete’s Dragon. I think it’s great that studios are finally remaking bad films, instead of beloved classics.
    “Remaking films that were already great is kind of stupid. I don’t really see the point. I get it a little more when people remake films that weren’t that great to begin with, but maybe were a really good idea conceptually.”
    -Rob Zombie, director of Halloween’s 2007 remake

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