Length: 102 minutes
Main Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Written by: David Lowery
Directed by: David Lowery
Written by Nelson Cumming
Pete’s Dragon is a remake of the 1977 animated original. The remake is a live-action film (unfortunately, the dragon is only animated) and is really good in its storytelling, it’s ability to go places other filmmakers would say is audacious to try and it’s ability to know and play the audience like a symphony. It was an awesome summer flick.
Pete (Oakes Fegley) is a 9-year-old orphan that encounters a friendly dragon in the forest through a series of events and lives in the forest with the dragon for six years. In the town that occupies the forest, no one believes in the dragon’s existence when Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) tells children, through storytelling, his experience of encountering the Dragon many years ago. Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) a park ranger and daughter of Mr. Meachem finds Pete and he tells the dragon’s existence. Grace then explores the forest to see if the dragon is real.
Director David Lowery loves playing the audience
What is great about this film is that it manages to change from uplifting happy moments into sad, poignant moments and it does this from scene to scene. The funny thing is that Pete’s Dragon is a rare film where the constant mood change feels seamless and not erratic. The kids at my screening were into this film. The kids cheered when Lowery wanted them to cheer and there was stunned silence or gasps when there was a poignant or tense scene.
In a fun way, I was thinking “I know what you are trying to make me feel you bastard but goddammit it’s working” David Lowery just knows how to get people to react in a positive way that I cannot quite explain. The best thing I can think of is he gets every element that makes a good film right.
Every actor plays their part
While I don’t believe there was a noteworthy performance in Pete’s Dragon, every actor played a good performance. Oakes Fegley, the child actor who plays Pete gives a good performance. I always respect it when child actors are entertaining throughout a movie. He was supported through Bryce Dallas Howard who helps give the movie some chemistry with everyone she interacts with and Karl Urban was great at being the antagonist. Urban reminded me that I can still dislike a villain despite him being a G-rated kids villain.
Pete’s Dragon: A courageous movie in subtle ways
I am going to be blunt here: I love it when a movie has balls. I love it, even more, when I think a movie won’t have balls then gives them to you when you least expect it. Ten minutes in I have the pre-conceived notion of “This is a kids film, they will only infer bad things, not show us” I was glad to be proven wrong.
There were moments in the movie where they went places I didn’t think they would go, even more, surprising was they depicted inheritally graphic events in a way kids could digest and not shy away from. When loggers find the dragon and perceive it as evil, they try to capture it by throwing a lasso over its head and hanging it from a tree. Another graphic event occurs at the climax. Trust me, it is not as bad as I described, but the filmmakers went there to make us believe that the heroes could lose. Surprisingly, those scenes were greatly executed and unexpected from me.
Pete’s Dragon is a movie that fits into the odd category of being a great movie without any one thing standing out. I think it’s because everything works and everyone who worked on the film just wanted to do a real good job as a unit. The end product is better than the sum of its parts. This is the first time that I have reviewed three movies in a row that have gotten more than or equal to four stars. The past two months have actually been great with only one film getting less than three stars. Shows you there are good movies out there. Don’t believe a person when they say “movies are dead” ****1/4