Movie Review: “Pete’s Dragon”

Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford
David Lowery

Like many studios these days, Disney has been reaching back into its archives to find movies that it can update for modern audiences, and though “Pete’s Dragon” is a film that didn’t really need to be remade, it’s one that most people can agree has plenty of room for improvement. The original 1977 musical was okay for its time, but it could hardly be described as a classic. Perhaps even stranger than the decision to remake it, however, is the involvement of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” director David Lowery, who’s not exactly the first person you’d think of to helm a family-friendly movie about a CG dragon. While Lowery’s soulful, more character-driven adaptation is a refreshing change of pace from the typical summer film, it never really goes anywhere.

After surviving a car crash that kills both of his parents (a classic Disney move), orphaned boy Pete wanders into the nearby woods where he’s almost devoured by a pack of wolves before being rescued by a large, green furry dragon that he names Elliot. Six years later, the now-feral Pete (Oakes Fegley) and his magical guardian Elliot are enjoying a quiet, isolated life together in the forest when a logging company encroaches on their land and Pete accidentally reveals himself. Brought back to town by kindhearted forest ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), Pete learns what it means to be part of a family when he’s welcomed into Grace’s home with her fiancé Jack (Wes Bentley) and his young daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence). Meanwhile, Elliot believes that Pete is in danger and sets out to rescue him, but after Jack’s opportunistic brother Gavin (Karl Urban) encounters the dragon and plans to capture it for personal gain, Pete must assume the role of protector for once in order to save his friend.

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