Director: David Lowery
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Close on the heels of the remake of The Jungle Book, Disney Pictures have re-imagined a lesser-known live-action/animated musical from their back catalogue of children’s classics. Unlike the 1977 original, this 3D version of Pete’s Dragon dispenses with animation and song interludes.
Skillfully adapting the short story by Seton Miller and SS Field, co-scenarist and director David Lowery, an indie-film stalwart (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), weaves an array of influences ranging from the early family-friendly blockbusters of Steven Spielberg to the animal adventures of Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion) into his own wondrous vision.
A right amount of fantasy and magic is added to the story of an orphaned boy and his best friend, who just so happens to be a dragon.
Watch the trailer of Pete’s Dragon here:
The titular 11-year-old, the lone survivor of a car crash that killed his parents, lives alone in a remote forest. An unlikely friendship develops between the now-wild child (Fegley, soulful beyond his tender age) and the green, furry, surprisingly gentle beast that protects him from harm.
The duo’s idyllic existence is threatened when a deforestation crew encroaches upon their sylvan surroundings.
A brave park ranger (Howard), her tall-tales-spinning father (Robert Redford, all grace and gravitas) and a young stepdaughter (Oona Laurence, vulnerable and resourceful in equal measure) are pitted against the lumber mill town’s residents, who insist on capturing and exploiting the high-flying creature for personal gain.
Gorgeously filmed on location in New Zealand, the movie is saturated with memorable set pieces, such as the use of a school bus to escape the clutches of social services authorities.
The film’s central CGI effect -- the dragon -- is never allowed to overshadow the human characters, especially the deeply affecting two children. The soundtrack is punctuated by snatches of country and folk ballads.
While providing sufficient entertainment for young viewers, Pete’s Dragon also puts adult audiences in touch with their inner child.