REVIEW – Pete’s Dragon

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Welcome to Hollywood, where everything is constantly being remade. Leading the charge is Disney, who have been on a bit of a run remaking all their old classics – Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book et al – and, to be fair, Pete’s Dragon seemed like a great choice for a modern remake.

Because, in an ideal world, films that SHOULD be remade are the ones that don’t hold up or didn’t quite hit in the first place. Not remaking classic hits (like, seriously! Stop trying to remake Scarface!). And Pete’s Dragon is the sort of property that could have been given new life with a new glossy remake. And thus it is very unfortunate that the film is as forgettable and unnecessary as the original movie.

The story, in a nutshell, follows a boy named Pete. And his dragon. In more detail, at 5 years of age, Pete is the lone survivor of a car crash that killed his parents and finds himself alone in the woods, where he befriends a green dragon named Elliot. The pair live together, isolated in the woods, for 6 years before Pete is discovered by a park ranger. Once society discovers the existence of Elliot, the hunt is on, and Pete and his newfound friends must fight to save Elliot from being hunted, killed or used for profit.

The cast is all pretty decent at the end of the day. Youngster Oakes Fegley plays Pete, and he’s fine, along with fellow child actor Oona Laurence. The adult cast includes Robert Redford, playing a grandfatherly figure who claims to have once seen the dragon many years ago, along with Wes Bentley as a father figure for Pete and Karl Urban as an opportunistic lumberjack who acts as the main antagonist. Also appearing is Bryce Dallas Howard, as the park ranger and mother figure for Pete. They are all… fine. Nothing stands out. But nothing is inherently wrong with any of the performances.

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Bryce Dallas Howard even got a chance to run around the jungle in sensible shoes for a change in one scene.

And that word – “fine” – is exactly what was wrong with this movie. Everything about it was “fine” but forgettable. The plot was basic, the visuals were passable, there were 2 jokes which is nice. But it did absolutely nothing to justify its existence. It did nothing that could possibly make me come out and say “You should see this in the theater”. It’s safe film-making. And safe film-making just doesn’t cut it. It’s the movie equivalent of a student politician running on a platform of free printing and discounted hot dogs at the canteen. No-one will hate you for it, but you are not going to win.

There were some well-made moments. Anything emotional to do with family and protection was done well. I mean, it’s Disney, they have a track record of making those sorts of scenes work. But there seemed to be genuine affection between Howard and Fegley, which enhanced the film.

This is balanced though by the big negative of this film – the stupid dragon. Dragons are the coolest thing about fantasy storytelling, without any rivals (Well, except for maybe the awesome backflips performed by Legolas in The Lord of the Rings. You could make an argument there). They’re dangerous, they’re threatening, they burn everything to the ground, they love a bit of gold and their reptilian nature evokes the same feeling as the dinosaurs. That’s what we want from dragons.

Elliot, on the other hand, is a fluffy green dragon (apparently dragons can be mammals now!) who acts exactly like a puppy dog and enjoys storytime. Now, I love a dog movie as much as the next guy – Red Dog is a very emotional ride for me. But I wasn’t watching Pete’s Pooch. I was watching Pete’s Dragon. And to see a dragon so obviously designed to sell plush toys was terribly irritating.

Oh, also, the furry dragon had camouflage. Don’t ask me how, it just did.

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It probably got some cuttlefish DNA or something. And yes, that was 2 Jurassic World jokes in one review, for those playing at home.

Anyway, enough of that rant. I can’t recommend paying for this movie at all, but if you have a child that is desperate to see it, you could probably do worse.

2.5/5 – By the numbers. Boring.

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Another Bloody Critic would like to acknowledge and pay his respects to Charmain Carr, the actress best known for the role of Leisl in the Oscar winning musical The Sound of Music, who passed away at the age of 73 this week. The first of the von Trapp actors to pass away, Carr will always remain 16 going on 17 in the eyes of every film lover. RIP.

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