In standard Disney fashion, we begin with a family of three, on a vacation into the woods. Suddenly, a deer darts out in front of the car, causing a wreck, leaving four-year old Pete (Oakes Fegley) as a lost orphan. That is, until he's approached by the enormous, but gentle green friend Elliot. He reveals his ability to camouflage, shocking a pack of wolves, arising from the trees, and extending his claw to protect the lost child. And with this gentle extension of his furry green paw, my heartstrings are being pulled on, and we're not even 10 minutes in. One begins to worry that they forgot to bring kleenex.
Fast forward to six years later, where Pete and Elliot have built themselves a brotherhood, a child with his pet, and the only family the two of them know. Their Passing days involve climbing trees, playing hide and seek, and eating food in any way that they can. Alas, the little utopia the two have built is not meant to last, as little local Natalie (Oona Laurence) stumbles upon the disheveled boy, alerting her father/deforester Jack (Wes Bentley) and local forest ranger Grace Meacam (Bryce Dallas Howard). They are dumbstruck. How could a boy this young survive on his own? Little do they know that a dragon follows cloaked behind.
Lowery may be a director of independent films in the past, his Ain't Them Bodies Saints was a beautiful combination of a Terrence Malick film and an Andrew Dominik film, but his flare for lower budgets, combines a unique mixture of wisely using his dollars. The CG work on the dragon looks like a cuddly combination of The Hobbit's Smaug and an adorable puppy, equipped with soft green fur and a glossy wet nose. It's impossible not to fall in love with him. Meanwhile, the screenplay, co-written by Lowery and Toby Halbrooks focuses around the relationships between the small cast of characters.
Even though Grace's father (Robert Redford) had spoken of dragons in the past, it was believed as just an old tale. Jack's ambitious brother Gavin (Karl Urban) plays the pesky bad guy, who wants to take claim on the dragon he finds in the woods, and bellows the memorable line of “Follow that dragon!” Only, Lowery never makes a full villain out of his characters. As young Pete fears the things he does not know, he also slowly opens up to the kindness Grace has to offer. He sees the warm bed and someone to read to him at night.
If there are any complaints with Pete's Dragon, it's the moments spent in the forrest. And since I saw this in 3D, the dark woods made it almost impossible to see through the shaded 3D glasses. I would highly steer away from this, but by all means enjoy it in the bright 2D. I feel like those glasses make the murky, even murkier.
On the other hand though, Pete's Dragon does include some of the more gorgeous images of 2016, especially in scenes that recall The Never Ending Story relationship of Atreyu and Falkor soaring through the sky. He allows the nature of the Pacific Northwest (actually shot in New Zealand) to be the true beauty. The film glides along with a pace that flies across the screen, leading up to a sequence where our characters endure a car chase, and then culminates with everyone running to hug the one they love. It's a scene that represents so much, because whether you are hugging your mom, son, or a big green dragon, family is family.
Pete's Dragon is a pure joy. David Lowery has brought the magic back to movies, allowing this wholesome, kind, film to remind us what it's like to believe again. I believe there are dragons out there, you just have to keep looking, but first let me wipe away all the tears. Sniff. Sniff.
3 ½ Stars
Written By: Leo Brady
MOVIE: PETE'S DRAGON
STARRING: BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD; ROBERT REDFORD; KARL URBAN; WES BENTLY
DIRECTED BY: DAVID LOWERY
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Pete's Dragon made me believe in the magic of family all over again. I am not all gloom and doom, but in todays day and age, it's not exactly pleasant to watch the evening news. Typically, a screaming blowhard whose name rhymes with “dump” is getting the attention, trying to put fear in our hearts, when what we really need is more messages that a film like this has. Director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) heightens the magic with kindness and friendship, in this remake of the 1977 original. He removes the corny songs & dances, and caresses our hearts through the beautiful relationship of a boy and his dragon. Pete's Dragon is a film that families will fall in love with.