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A boy and his beast

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With the summer movie season winding down, Disney strikes again with a remake of Pete’s Dragon, which – truth be told – was not one among the studio’s classics, although fans would argue otherwise.

Borrowing a bit from The Jungle Book, which Disney also remade earlier this year (to great success), we’re introduced to Pete (Oakes Fegley), a young lad who is quickly orphaned and just as quickly “adopted,” as it were, by Elliott, a fuzzy green dragon with powers of invisibility.

Jump ahead six years, as Pete and Elliott’s forest reverie is intruded upon by a local lumber company (adding a slight environmental message to the proceedings), and Pete is discovered by fetching forest ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard, an experienced hand at dealing with large creatures, given her stint in last year’s Jurassic World).

Grace’s father (Robert Redford) has long told stories about seeing the dragon years before, but now this seemingly tall tale is about to come true, as Elliott embarks on a quest to find Pete.

With adult characters that tend to look or listen in the wrong direction, Pete’s Dragon is squarely aimed at children, and none the worse for it. All in all, this is a better film than its predecessor, as well as being shorter.

Unlike the original film, this Pete’s Dragon isn’t a musical. Unfortunately, director David Lowery – who also penned the screenplay with Toby Halbrooks – throws in a bunch of generic ballads on the soundtrack which serve only to enhance the film’s already heavy corn quotient.

Nevertheless, the film manages to get by on sheer good will, and a cast that manages to bring a little something extra to their characters. Fegley and Oona Laurence are appealing as the youngsters, Redford is much more comfortable here than he was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and Howard, Wes Bentley and Karl Urban (despite playing the most ruthless character) are all likable. The special effects are quite good – Elliott is very convincing – although Bojan Bozelli’s cinematography is unaccountably dark, bringing to mind his early, noir-ish work with director Abel Ferrara. !

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