REVIEW: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

UK Release Poster – Walt Disney Pictures

The following is a review of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon – Directed by David Lowery

Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is a re-imagining of the 1977 comedy musical of the same name. It is not a remake, which I assumed it was until I saw the new film. The original film was about an orphan who is adopted into an abusive family. The 1977 version is a mostly forgotten film, which I remember watching but hardly remember for anything really. That probably tells you why it took me this long to finally watch David Lowery’s re-imagining.

I didn’t have fond memories of watching the musical, and I didn’t expect to love a new version. Boy, was I wrong. Disney and David Lowery have turned an old and forgotten story into a wonderful future Disney live-action classic.

Disney’s Pete’s Dragon tells the story of Pete (played by Oakes Fegley) and his good friend Elliot, a green and furry dragon that hides in the forest. The film begins in 1977 when young Pete (played here by Levi Alexander) and his parents are on a roadtrip.

All is well, until a deer jumps out in front of their car, and, as they try to avoid it, they get into a car crash which neither of his parents survive. As Pete is left all alone, he is chased by a pack of wolves into the forest where a dragon with green fur protects and befriends him. The rest of the film takes place six year later, when he and Elliot are great friends. But they are soon met by locals who have begun to cut down trees in the forest.

I was, honestly, shocked by how much I liked this movie. It is just a supremely confident film that doesn’t feel too derivative, even though it is clearly inspired by Spielberg’s E. T.. It is a testament to the filmmakers at work here that everything about this movie was so cozy and comfortable. From the beautiful friendship and brotherhood that Pete and Elliot have to the magical fondness that Robert Redford’s character has for a creature he once encountered too.

As I began to watch the film, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the look of Elliot, but my fears quickly disappeared as the large dragon acted like an energetic dog time and time again. I ended up really liking the look of the dragon and I loved the way it acted and moved.

The acting performances are uniformly solid, but the one issue I had with the film was that Karl Urban’s character becomes a villain almost out of nowhere. But other than that, Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is a wonderful film.

David Lowery has given new life to a forgotten Disney film. Disney’s Pete’s Dragon is a heartwarming, effective, and memorable re-imagining that borrows a lot of elements from other classic stories, but, ultimately, succeeds in delivering a family drama that I believe is going to be revisited time and time again by families all around the world.

9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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