The 1977 Disney classic “Pete’s Dragon” gets a remake from Director David Lowery. A boy is found in the woods by a local woman and her dad. They soon discover the reason he survived for six years in the harsh environment; he has a friend.
It’s a little slow going at the beginning in its plot setup, but it’s not long before its much more entertaining.
If you’re expecting a true rendering of the original 1977 version, you’ll be disappointed. Almost all of the characters are there. But there’s a distinct deviation in mood. The 2016 version trades much of the whimsy of the original with something that feels more subdued and heavy.
The story of the wild boy growing up in the forest and being raised by animal friends has been done again and again, but the magic is still here.
Although it is an emotional story, the creators depend too heavily on pulling at audiences’ heartstrings and focus less on recreating the lightheartedness of the original.
That said, the new “Pete’s Dragon” film may be a little heavy-handed with the tear-jerker moments, but it provokes a child-like sense of imagination and injects some wonder.
The CGI effects feel minimal in the movie, helping to highlight the lushness of the environment. The locations throughout the film are magical with vibrant colors and vast landscapes. Elliot the dragon’s CGI is simplistic in design. His furry exterior, toothy maw and equally vibrant green skin gives him an innocent air and helps us believe that he could have been created by a child’s mind. The creators did a great job with his character — he’s larger than life, but not too imposing for a kid to enjoy.
The acting in the film was a little hit and miss. Bryce Dallas Howard’s signature emotionality was a good fit for her mother-figure character Grace. Oakes Fegley’s delivery of the character Pete was done well; he came off as innocent yet wise and filled with imagination. Finally, Karl Urban’s character Gavin felt one-dimensional — his main purpose in the movie is to be the antagonist. Sure, we get that he’s concerned for the safety of people, but we miss out on his development since we focus on him being a bad guy.
Overall, the movie has a lot going for it despite its simplistic plot. Lowery may have traded the quirkiness of the original for a more realistic retelling of the story, but the magic is still there. With a solid design of Elliot the dragon, emotional performances and an environment and music score to match, “Pete’s Dragon” is a heartwarming view.