Much like 'The Jungle Book' a few months ago and last year’s ‘Cinderella,’, filmmaker David Lowry’s ‘Pete’s Dragon’ continues the run of quality live action Disney films.
This version reinvents the core story of the classic Disney family film from 1977, uses a strong cast and provides a much needed visual facelift to recreate the same charm that made the original so memorable. A slightly different story, a modern day script and setting, and an impressive looking CGI dragon, and ‘Pete’s Dragon’ is a thrilling kid and family friendly film that’s fun for all ages.
Set in 1982 in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, ‘Pete’s Dragon’ involves a young orphan boy named Pete (Oakes Fegley) that has lost his parents in a car crash and spends more than six years living in the woods with his friend, Elliott, who happens to be a dragon.
After sometime, a forest ranger, Grace Meacham (Dallas Bryce Howard), stumbles upon Pete and attempts to rescue him, unaware of the dragon. This discovery not only uncovers Pete’s hidden life but also reveals the truth about the fabled creature that lives in the forest. The little boy played by Fegley is quite good, as is another young actor in Oona Laurence, who plays Pete’s other friend, Natalie.
Wes Bentley plays Natalie’s father, Jack, in a bit of an underused role, and his character is together with Grace Meacham (Howard). Robert Redford plays Mr. Meacham, Grace’s father, who tells stories of the one time he supposedly saw a dragon, which no one believes, and Karl Urban fills the closest thing to a villain role in Gavin, brother of Jack and primary driver behind trying to hunt and capture the dragon.
This heartfelt, uplifting, appealing film has a lot to offer for a variety of audiences. Written as well as directed by Lowry, this remake modernizes and twists the original story while leaving its primary roots intact. This version is not a musical and the dragon is completely animated in CGI instead of the traditional hand-drawn animation, a technique that involves drawing a picture for each frame of a movie. The film has its funny moments, such as Pete learning about the world after living most of his life in the woods, and naturally there are a few cheesy lines throughout.
Before going to see this film and out of curiosity, I looked up the 1977 Pete’s Dragon as a refresher. What I didn’t expect to find was a nostalgic experience and trip down memory lane as I re-watched a film that I remembered meant so much to me as a child.
After seeing the 2016 version and knowing how solid it is, I’m excited that there are movies like this that while very different than my childhood version, allows today’s generations of children the chance to have a similar experience of their own. Whether you’re familiar with the original film or not, this ‘Pete’s Dragon’ doesn’t require any prior knowledge and has something for everyone.
I hate to admit that I tend to forget about some of the films I enjoyed as a kid, but it’s very satisfying that a decent remake of something such as memorable and vintage as these Disney tales can be created without spoiling the original or producing a below average product.
Check out ‘Pete’s Dragon,' in theaters August 12, 2016. ‘Pete’s Dragon’ is rated PG for action, peril and brief language.
Running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance writer, photographer/videographer, and filmmaker in Dallas, TX. You can find more of his work on Selig Film News. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when he is not reviewing movies, Hayden works in film production. Don't like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt. Enjoy the movies!