Pete’s Dragon Review (2016)

pete's dragon 8Of all the Disney remakes the one I was the most primed for was Pete’s Dragon. That might sound odd but I’m only a marginal fan of the original. In my opinion, the best remakes are films that are good but could use improvement. I don’t get very excited for remakes on films like Beauty and the Beast which are perfect. Anyway, that was my initial interest but quickly I realized this film was remake in name only. This might be concerning but then I read from director David Lowery and loved everything I heard.  Then the trailers came out and I really liked what I saw. Here is movie from an indy director with a passion for the project. It is also made for a low budget of $65 million which excites me greatly as I’d like to see Disney make more artistic low budget films.

So all of those factors led me to greatly look forward to Pete’s Dragon. So I went to see it today and I was not disappointed! This is a really special movie. It could probably be called Boy and the Dragon instead of Pete’s Dragon because it doesn’t have much to do with the original. It’s more like ET, Old Yeller, Black Stallion, Sounder or other movies for children about a boy and his dog/creature. These movies were sweet, emotional and helped teach children important life lessons. Such is the case with Pete’s Dragon. It is impeccably made and seems like something from another era.

pete's dragon2The story is pretty simple here and it’s not reinventing the wheel but it executes it so well and with such heart. It’s basically about Pete who is raised in the wild with his dragon Elliot. One day Pete gets discovered by Bryce Dallas Howard’s character and they try to help him. Various characters find out about Elliott and have different responses. It’s got an underlying message of faith and believing in things you don’t see (Elliott can be invisible after all).

The story may be simple but it will tug at your heart strings and make you feel really good.  All the performances are winning and warm- even the villain is understandable in his fear of the unknown. The child actors are particularly outstanding with Oaks Fegley reminding me of Jacob Trembley in Room. Robert Redford is great.  They are all great.

pete's dragon5If Disney is going to do these live action retellings this is the kind I want. I want a small film that is carefully made, not a lazy cash grab like Maleficent. This film does its own thing and tells a type of story I haven’t seen at the cinemas in a long time.

peteDirector David Lowery gives us incredible cinematography and the special effects on Elliott are first rate. It looked as good as anything we saw in The Jungle Book. I personally prefer this film to The Jungle Book because that film dragged when it tried to include songs and moments from the original. This is tight storytelling at its best.  In a lot of ways it reminded me of The Peanuts Movie. It is old fashioned and simple but full of heart. I loved both movies! There’s no attempt to modernize the characters or make them hip or cool. There’s no cell phones or lame attempts at humor. It is just a boy and his dragon just like Peanuts is about a boy and his dog.

Just everything they did I loved. Even the music I loved. I would encourage you to go see it on the big screen. Let Disney know that this is the type of movie they should be making. It is definitely one of my favorite films of the year and one that I can’t wait to show my nieces someday.

Here is my youtube review:  (I’m almost at a 1,000 subscribers on youtube!)

Pete’s Dragon (1977) Review

This week we have Disney’s latest live action remake coming out. It is a very loosely based retelling of the 1977 film Pete’s Dragon. I’m actually looking forward to this remake. The early buzz is great, and I’m excited to see what indie director David Lowery can do. Evidently the working environment was great because Disney has already hired him to work on their Peter Pan remake. He has a passion for the project and if Disney is going to do remakes (which I wish they wouldn’t) I’d like them to pick auteur directors with unique perspectives and ideas.

petes dragon2Since I have never reviewed the original on my blog I thought I would give some of my thoughts. I know for many it is a special film but for me it isn’t one I grew up with or even recall watching as a child. In fact, when I heard they were doing a remake it made a lot of sense to me. In general I prefer remakes to be done of movies that are decent but could be improved rather than masterpieces like Sleeping Beauty. Pete’s Dragon is cute but it’s pretty hokey and doesn’t really impress me that much.

petes dragonThe story of Pete’s Dragon is pretty simple.  It’s about a boy named Pete who has a dragon named Elliot. Elliot is an animated creature and the rest of the movie is in live action. Pete loves Elliot because he is an orphan owned by a horrible family called the Gogans and Elliot is his only friend.

petes dragon6While the Gogans are searching for Pete, they go to a village named Passaamaquoddy and meet a man named Lampie who has a daughter named Nora. Nora’s fiance Paul has been reported lost at sea, so she is naturally very upset.

petes dragon10Then we get our villains Dr Terminus and his stooge Hoagy and they want to use Elliott to make potions and elixirs to make money. They are your typical sniveling over the top silly villains.

petes dragon8The rest of the movie is basically a cat and mouse chase between the villains (Gogans and Terminus/Hoagy) and the good guys (Pete, Elliot, Nora, Lampie and Paul).

Pete’s Dragon is perfectly harmless entertainment. The songs are fine but aside from Candle on the Water forgettable. The performances are all nice.  The animation of Elliot is first rate.  It has its heart in the right place. It’s very sweet enjoyable film. There is a lack of cynicism to the entire enterprise that is very charming.

petes dragon5However, I don’t know if I would say it’s a particularly good movie. The villains, particularly the Gogans, get old very fast. They cross over the hokey line and become out right annoying. Plus, it is strange to have a Disney movie where a character is continually claiming she has the ‘bill of sale’ to a human being. Isn’t that strange?

Dr Terminus and Hoagy are sniveling snarling mustache twirling villains that are fine but don’t do much to inspire me or excite me. Pretty standard rote bad guys.

Like I said, the songs aside from Candle on the Water are nothing special. Let’s put it this way Passamaquoddy isn’t likely to be the next Supercalifragilsticexpialidocious.  This music sorely misses the Sherman Brothers. They could do so much with a song like Brazzle Dazzle Day. As it is it’s meh.

The animation is pretty good on Elliot and he and Pete have a sweet relationship. I also appreciate we don’t get any real backstory on Elliot. He just exists and that’s the way it is.

pete_primaryI certainly would put other live action Disney films like Mary Poppins, Pollyanna, Bednobs and Broomsticks, Parent Trap, 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea, etc far above this.  I even think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (not Disney I know) is much better. They are for the most part more engaging and less syrupy than Pete’s Dragon.

But there is stuff to like here and aside from the Gogans nothing to really offend or annoy me, so it’s not a bad watch.  It’s fine.

Overall Grade- B-

Pete’s Dragon Teaser Trailer Response

Everyone is talking about it so I might as well add my two cents.  They just put out the teaser trailer for this summer’s Pete’s Dragon remake.  I have to be honest- I like the trailer.  I think it looks kind of magical.  Now I thought the Maleficent trailer looked promising and you see what that brought us…

I would certainly rather there be no remakes at all and get new and exciting content but that’s not happening any time soon.  The best we can hope for is these remakes are more of the Cinderella vein and less Maleficent/Alice in Wonderland (and no the new Looking Glass trailer does nothing to excite me).  I guess I’m more positive about Pete’s Dragon because I’m not super attached to the original; although, I do enjoy it.

What does seem cool about Pete’s Dragon is they are doing more of a reimagining than a remake, which begs the question- why call it Pete’s Dragon in the first place?  Fair enough, but at least it isn’t like Maleficent where they restage our favorite scenes but ruin the characters and story.  At least that doesn’t appear to be the case.

One thing I don’t understand in these remakes is why they shy away from the music?  I understand not wanting to make everything a musical but why not have a soundtrack?  Candle on the Water is a great Disney song and I feel it at least should be in the closing credits.  You had no Bibbity Bobbity Boo in Cinderella.  No Once Upon a Dream but in credits in Maleficent.  That is so bizarre. Why not take full advantage of the properties you are remaking? It’s not like Oz where they don’t have the rights to the original music.

Either way, I thought it was an effective, enticing trailer that didn’t tell me too much but just gave a spirit of the film.  This movie has been very hush-hush so I’m glad to see some images of the dragon and what the story is going for.  The fact Pete is a feral boy living in the forest for 6 years is interesting and Robert Redford being in your movie never hurt anything.

So I’m hopeful.  What say you?  I know some people are very upset about it and I can see their points.  Share in the comment section.