Friday, August 12, 2016

Pete's Dragon

1977's Pete's Dragon is a goofy live-action kid's movie about an orphan who gets into trouble thanks to a clumsy invisible dragon named Elliot. Something around the lines of The Apple Dumpling Gang mashed up with Mary Poppins, it's a movie I remember from my childhood, but not well. To be honest, the announcement of a remake didn't really interest me. However, Disney's entirely new take on the tale proves to be a far more memorable adventure.

As much, if not more, descended from King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, and The Jungle Book than the original film, Pete's Dragon is a surprisingly engaging and moving story about a lost kid named Pete (Oakes Fegley) and his pet dragon Elliot who finds the youngster in the middle of the woods after a tragic accident leaves Pete alone in the world.

If we're stuck in an age of remakes, reboots, and sequels, Pete's Dragon is an example of how you can improve on the original by adding depth to what was originally little more than a kiddie film. Although the 3D didn't impress me, as the movie looked too dark in spots, the story lit up the screen.

Opening with the car accident that introduces Pete to Elliot, the movie quickly jumps six years into the future where the local mining town is beginning to encroach into the high mountains where Pete and Elliot live. While Pete is discovered by a kind local forest ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her daughter (Oona Laurence), Elliot is discovered by the town yahoo (Karl Urban) who quickly becomes obsessed with bagging the legendary dragon of the mountain. Robert Redford, who narrates the opening of the film, also stars as the ranger's father who has been telling stories about the not-so-mythical dragon for decades.

The movie certainly steals some important ideas from How to Train Your Dragon where the movie's title character is concerned. Like Toothless, Elliot is presented very much like a giant dog (who can also fly and breathe fire). There's even a scene of the dragon picking up a giant log like a dog wanting to play fetch. Fans of the DreamWorks franchise should feel right at home here. Could the best movie of the summer be a remake of a largely forgettable 70s kid's film? As unlikely as it sounds, the answer may be yes. Pete's Dragon is just the kind of all-age live-action family adventure the summer has been sorely lacking.

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