Film Review: Pete’s Dragon

Pete's Dragon

Pete’s Dragon takes a departure from its live action-animated musical roots in this new version. Director David Lowery offers a well-rounded and pleasing tale.

When young Pete is orphaned in the forest, he finds an unlikely ally in a dragon. Pete and Elliot are enjoying their adventures when Pete stumbles across ranger, Grace. Pete is intrigued by another human, but wants to protect his dragon friend…

Pete’s Dragon is another in a line of Disney remakes. This version of the film, however, is quite different to its predecessor. There are some aspects of the film which indicate alignment with the studio. The manner in which Pete comes to be isolated in the forest, for example, is more of a Disney trope than the earlier version. Nonetheless, other traditional aspects are missing, such as the songs.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery helms the film. Pete’s Dragon seems quite distinct to his previous film, yet both operate on an emotional level. There is a level of sentimentality perceivable from the outset. The theme of family and belonging is played out in a conventional way. Notwithstanding, the film offers shades of grey in its characterisation. The sharp contrasts often found in children’s films are not present here. Instead, the film promotes an antagonist with redemptive qualities.

Pete’s Dragon has a twee quality, one that matches its period setting. Some may find this old fashioned, yet this is a charming aspect of the film. The themes of friendship and belonging, as well as the environmental concerns, are a good combination. There are moments when the film feels a bit too sentimental, but overall Pete’s Dragon does well to add heart to its narrative.

Special effects in the film are excellent. Elliot feels like a real character, and not just a CGI image. Oakes Fegley does well as Pete, whilst Bryce Dallas Howard is believable as Grace. Robert Redford and Karl Urban are well cast in their respective roles.

Pete’s Dragon is a worthy remake, and one that goes beyond its source material. An enjoyable family film.

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