Summary: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.
Cast and Characters. Disney usually does a really good job with their characters. At least enough for people to find some connection to them and they continue to do that in this film.
Oakes Fegley as Pete. First of all, this little boy is adorable. I think he does a good job with balancing the emotions and actions Pete goes through in this film. He’s a 10 year old boy whose been living in the woods for six years with a dragon and he’s basically a mini Tarzan. The joy Fegley shows in being in the forest, being with his friend is obvious to see. He’s also very brave and fast, he can stand up to bears, chase down rabbits and run through the forest like he owns it. However, he also does the emotional side well, because Pete hasn’t been around people in years, I enjoyed the fact that his emotional moments were subtle and subdued and not the normal “wild child” reaction to things. Sure, he may react strangely to things, he may run away (that whole scene after he escapes the hospital was great) and he may attempt to “fight” but it’s never over the top. Any time he got emotional, I couldn’t help but to as well.
Elliot the Dragon. I WANT ONE! The design on him is done very well because he’s so expressive. It’s not necessarily explained, but it happens twice in the film, when Pete first touches his fur, his color lightens which I thought was nice in how it was handled. His red eyes are so emotive that it’s easy to tell when he’s sad, happy, angry and the shift between those emotions are done so well it’s like he’s really real and not a CGI character. Plus, he acts like a dog with a bit of cat mixed in there (Mostly a dog though) and he’s just so cuddly. I want a furry dragon.
Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace. I kept looking at her hips, she’s thick! lol but that’s not important obviously, but I like her in general. Grace is a forest ranger, who is trying to save the forest from being cleared out by the construction workers. When she meets Pete, she immediately is drawn to him and she cares so much about him from the get go that everything she presents appears so genuine and Ms. Howard does such a great job, plus her voice is so soft that it helps placate Pete. Only thing though is because she’s so gentle, her character can come across as “weepy”.
Oona Laurence as Natalie. She was already so good in Southpaw and she was good in a different way as her role was vastly different. Natalie is the daughter to the guy Grace is dating (I think) and she’s the first one to actually spot Pete and tries to copy him and gets a little hurt in the process. When Pete actually is around, she’s at ease with him, I think they’re about the same age, but she seems so mature. Perhaps it’s because Pete is still so young mentally, or at least not where a 10 year would be (He thinks he’s 5 at some point) or maybe it’s because the young actress carries herself very maturely.
Robert Redford as Meecham. He’s Grace’s father and he tells the small town’s kids stories about the mysterious dragon in the woods. I guess the adults in the town look at him as a crazy old man who tells stories to kids… he’s the narrator of the film, at the beginning and the end and he gets to have an adventure. Of course Mr. Redford is an amazing actor and the childlike wonderment he gets to portray upon hearing about Pete and of course hearing about his dragon, it’s like he’s saying “finally, I knew I wasn’t crazy” as he claims to have seen Elliot when he was a younger man.
Musical Score. Daniel Hart is the film’s composer and ugh, so beautiful. Disney always does music so well and it accompanies the film so well. There’s a particular score towards the end where Pete and Elliot soar away and have a moment in the woods, it’s so beautiful.
The Emotion. This is a very sentimental and emotional film. To be quite honest, the best moments are the moments between Pete and Elliot… there a some great moments between Pete and Grace or Pete and Natalie. Basically, most of Pete’s scenes are some great stuff.
The Story. At the most basic form, it’s about a boy and his animal friend (pet is not the right word) and being thrust into a world that neither of them are aptly prepared for. Now they must find where they belong. That’s basically it and at that point, the film is fine in that regard. It’s in the same vein as E.T or The Iron Giant.
The Look/Design. Again with Elliot’s design (someone was inspired by Falcor in TheNeverending Story) the locations being film during the flying scenes, it reminded me a lot of parts from Lord of the Rings which I saw the film was filmed in parts of New Zealand so boom! lol but the overhead shots of the forest and the trees, the shots inside the forest, with the canopy of tall trees, with sunlight peeking through, ugh so beautiful. In scenes where Pete is running through the forest, the camera keeps up with him but makes sure to show us the forest.
Karl Urban as Gavin. He is of course the “jerk” character of the film but that’s about it. Outside of being Karl Urban his character is bland. He’s a construction worker, or whatever the people are who tear down trees… developers? After meeting Pete, he gets a hint of Elliot and goes after him determined to catch him because why? It’ll make him rich. Outside of him maybe not having the best relationship with his younger (older? not sure) brother, we don’t know anything about him. He’s so punchable though. Urban is a great actor, his character is just boring.
Wes Bentley as Jack. Whew, another boring dude. He’s Gavin’s younger (older? not sure) brother and I think he’s in charge of the developments, or it’s his company… I may have missed that, he’s Natalie’s father and I think Grace’s boyfriend/fiancee… something (I swear I thought she was with Gavin in the beginning) and he’s nice. He’s nice to Pete when they meet, he welcomes him into his home to stay with him and Natalie (so Pete can be with someone his age) and then there’s a little bit of action and adventure with him at the end but meh, still boring and nothing interesting about him. First time, I thought Wes Bentley was cute though.
The Story. Now, at it’s core, it’s a cute story but I can say that it’s not only cliche, there’s nothing really new added to that particular trope that makes it different from the same type of stories that come before it. Other than the ‘other worldly friend’ being a dragon instead of an alien, or a robot voiced by Mr. Fast and Furious himself and Pete being a “forest child” there’s nothing really new here. The idea is nice but the hit it should take at the end, it doesn’t really happen. It’s definitely emotional in the journey but the destination could have been better.
The Time Period. I wasn’t too sure of the time period, but I figure it’s not set in present time due to no cell phones, certain clothing choices, the way the inside Jack and Natalie’s house appeared, and a few other things but it seemed like it should have been more specific to a time period. I spent too much time wondering when it was set. There could have been something to cement it (didn’t need a time stamp or anything) but something.
Too Short. It stands at about 1 hr and 48 minutes long. Considering how the film is character driven more than plot driven (as the plot isn’t very interesting on it’s own), I think if they had a bit more run time, it might have helped flesh out the story more.
Overall, I really liked Pete’s Dragon and while I’ve never seen the original to compare it, I think it stands as a very good live action Disney film. Pete and Elliot stand out as interesting characters who may have done better in a longer film with a more intricate and in depth plot. The chemistry between the two characters is palpable and Oakes Fegley holds his own in the different emotions and actions his character goes through. Elliot is a very expressive dragon design, all of his flying scenes are amazing. The musical score is emotional, beautiful and whimsical. The film is emotional, be prepared to mist or shed some tears. The supporting characters, for the most part, hold their own and the story, while being one told before, the formula still holds up. However, while the formula is familiar, the film doesn’t add anything to make that familiarity become original and unique. Other supporting characters are bland and boring, their uses are cutouts of typical roles in these types of formulaic films. The film would also benefit from being longer to help flesh out the characters more as well as the story. It may be a bit too much for some kids in terms of not being interesting enough to hold their attention.
Pete’s Dragon is a beautiful, magical and whimsical film about family and friendship and it’s such a treat to witness.
Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Pete’s Dragon? What did you think about it?
What is your favorite live action Disney remake?
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