Pete’s Dragon (2016)

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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.

So THAT’S what happened to Bambi’s mom!

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.

I’m just imagining them having a hide-and-seek playdate with Mighty Joe Young!

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.

“I mean, how can one possibly miss a dragon?!”

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.

Coloring seems to help!

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!

Every cryptid-lover’s dream!

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.

I’d give anything to see this!

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!

“Now what?”
“Maybe they’ll make another Lord of the Rings film and we’ll have jobs again!”

And Gavin…umm….I’m not quite sure what happened to him, to be honest.

“You want me to go to jail or something? Show me one law that says it’s illegal to tranquilize a dragon!”

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.

I mean, come on!

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.

11 thoughts on “Pete’s Dragon (2016)

  1. Well… didn’t see this one coming. :/

    This was something I sort of predicted on the outset of the trailers, that a lot of more charming (or dated) aspects of the original would be compared unfavorably compared against the remake. There are quite a few people who do like the remake just fine!

    I didn’t see the original on home video, but I did see this one in the cinemas. I felt it was decently made and had its heart in the right place but not very memorable. Now I might have to revisit it (and the original) to re-assess my thoughts on it. For full disclosure, check out my own review here:

  2. 😦 I loved this film. To me it felt like Old Yeller, Sounder or Black Stallion. The kind of blockbuster you never see any more that is small and intimate about real relationships. The original is an ok lark but this improves upon it in every way in my opinion. It had scale and majesty to it and made me cry. I loved Bryce Dallas Howard in it and when she says “you are the bravest boy I know” it was beautiful. I wish Disney would stop making these big bloated remakes and focus on small heartfelt stories like this about a boy and his dragon

    1. Maybe it’s because I don’t really fall for these “a boy and his…animal” sort of stories. I didn’t feel any sadness at all in Old Yeller (yeah, I’m heartless) and I’ve never seen Sounder or Black Stallion. That could be it. I know there are people who don’t like “Alice falling through a hole”-type stories. Maybe “a boy and his animal” stories are the same for me?

      1. Yeah I guess. LOL. Have you never had a pet? Having to shoot it is pretty brutal. I’m not a big animal person but that gets me. I just appreciated this was small and intimate about people that felt real. We havent gotten that from Disney live action in so long

  3. “The film has dragons! How could it possibly be boring?”

    I would think people would have stopped saying that about the time Eragon came out.

      1. I never saw it, but it has a 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. In addition, the book was so poorly written I was unable to finish it at age 7, but naturally my English teacher loved it and recommended I read them all.

  4. Personally, I think that the two movies that pull off the “kid meets fantastical being” premise most effectively are THE WATER HORSE (adapted from a book of the same name by the author of BABE)- a film I highly recommend- and E.T.

    On the basis of this review, I’d say that the new PETE’S DRAGON probably won’t be worth looking at, as far as I’m concerned. (Of course, there is also the factor of familiarity with the 1977 original to consider…)

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