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As many of you know, I’m not in love with the 1977 Disney film, Pete’s Dragon. It’s not horrible, but it really doesn’t work as a musical and doesn’t hold itself together very well plot-wise. So when I heard that Disney was remaking the film and making it a non-musical, I thought to myself that this has potential. If they can fix the musical aspect of the film, maybe they can fix the other aspects that don’t work as well?
But, when I saw the trailers for this film, I wasn’t too impressed. Nevertheless, I gave the film a shot and what did I think? Well, read on to find out: here’s my review of the 2016 Disney film, Pete’s Dragon.
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie begins with a man and a woman on a road trip with their five-year-old son, Pete. They’re driving “on an adventure”, but tragedy strikes when their car hits a deer.
The car crashes resulting in the parents’ deaths and Pete finds himself in the middle of the nearby forest. Scared as one can imagine, he soon finds himself face-to-face with a furry green dragon who takes care of him and the two become fast friends.
Fast-forward six years and Pete, played by Oakes Fegley, still lives in the forest with the dragon, Elliot. Elliot doesn’t speak, but makes sounds provided by John Kassir. Elliot also has the ability to turn invisible when he wants, so mostly people in the nearby town have not seen him. Well, some appeared to have seen him as throughout the years, a legend has been formed that a dragon resides in the forest. One such person who claims to have seen Elliot some years ago is Mr. Meacham, played by Robert Redford.
He often tells the town’s kids his stories with many believing him. But his daughter, Grace, played by Bryce Dallas Howard thinks it’s just a fictional tale. She is a forest ranger and knows the forest “like the back of her hand”, so she figures if Elliot were real she would have seen him, at least.
One day, after coming too near to some lumberjackers, Pete is seen by the lumberjackers and Grace. They’re astonished to see this boy who has been living in the forest for so long (and still has a decent grasp of the English language) and take him into town to take care of him. Pete, being afraid though, tries to run away from them as often as he can, including running away from a hospital that they put him in.
Finally, Grace makes a deal with Pete and says that she’ll take him back to the forest to find his friend, Elliot (who, she of course, doesn’t believe exists) if he’s a good boy and spends the night at her house with her fiancé, Jack and his daughter, Natalie. They’re played by Wes Bentley and Oona Laurence, respectively. Natalie is Pete’s age and finds him to be an interesting person. She does her best to make Pete feel at home and they soon start communicating more and becoming friends.
Meanwhile, Elliot has been flying into town trying to find Pete. He stays invisible for the most part, but is sad when he finds Pete with Grace and her family and heads back to the forest.
The next day, Grace takes her father (who won’t miss this for the world, of course), Jack, Natalie, and Pete back to the forest so he can show them where he used to live and who exactly this “Elliot” is. They’re astonished to find a sort of livable tree house in the middle of the forest and even more astonished when Pete (having explained things to Elliot) shows them Elliot!
But Jack’s lumberjack brother, Gavin, played by Karl Urban, has had a meeting with the dragon on the previous night. He and his men went into the forest when they suspected something was afoot and got beaten up by the dragon in an event that nobody would believe. Now Gavin and his men have followed Pete and the gang and now when they see Elliot face-to-face, they shoot him in an effort to tranquilize him. The gang is unable to stop this and Elliot falls down tranquilized and is sent back to town aboard a big truck.
Gavin is pleased to have caught this creature and wants the recognition to be his fair and square. Meanwhile Pete, along with Natalie and Mr. Meacham, try to rescue Elliot and drive off with the truck. A chase scene ensues afterwards complete with cop cars and a dangerous bridge scene. The scene ends with Pete and Elliot flying away back into the forest.
They see that their tree house has been destroyed. Elliot also realizes that Pete needs to go back to humankind and that if they’re together, Pete will always be in danger. It’s a hard goodbye for Pete, but he knows he has to go back to civilization too. Pete heads back into town and gets adopted by Grace and Jack after they marry. Elliot gets forgotten by the town as time goes on, but Pete’s newfound family finds him one day in the mountains when they go on vacation and see that he’s been reunited with other dragons!
And Gavin…umm….I’m not quite sure what happened to him, to be honest.
And that was Pete’s Dragon. So, is it better than the 1977 film? Honestly…no, it isn’t. I’m gonna get a lot of hate for this, but I feel this film is even worse than the 1977 film! That film at least had charm and even though it failed as a musical, the musical sequences at least helped to explain some of the characters’ motivations and feelings.
In this movie, I didn’t feel a connection between Pete and Elliot. I just felt that they didn’t show enough scenes of them together (especially of them growing up) for me to feel for their separation. And that’s really what the centerpiece of the movie is supposed to be! Maybe I’m just a guy who’s not into pets and animals much, but surely I should have felt something from these characters?
Maybe the story itself is just a hard one to adapt as a film? Because despite that lack of emotion and connection, I found the film to be quite boring and disengaging as well. To paraphrase a friend of mine (who said this regarding something completely different), “The film has dragons! How could it possibly be boring?”. And that’s the sad thing: if a film with a dragon in it is boring, there’s something really wrong.
In terms of acting, I can only commend the child actors. You can see that Oona Laurence and Oakes Fegley were trying. But, the adult actors? I mean, they weren’t horrible, but they could all have done so much better! I get the feeling that many of them (Robert Redford especially) acted in this movie just to be able to say that they’ve appeared in a Disney film and cross that off their bucket list!
I mean there is some nice cinematography regarding the forest, but overall, I was quite disappointed by this movie. It’s a bit surprising for me to say, but if you wanna check out the Pete’s Dragon story, please watch the 1977 version.
Alright, let the hate comments commence!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 15/35 = 42.86% (F) !
The next review will be posted on May 15, 2017.