Pete's Dragon (Review)
2016 has been an amazing year for Disney, at least in my humble opinion. The only movies I haven't given a perfect, or near perfect rating to are The Finest Hours (which I have yet to see), Alice Through the Looking Glass, and The BFG. That last one is especially surprising because not only did Steven Spielberg direct it, but it was also his return to blockbuster filmmaking, reuniting with his E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathinson. Today's film is another remake of one of Disney's classics, Pete's Dragon.
The story chronicles the adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.
Not only is this movie vastly superior to the original, but it also manages to be a better Spielberg movie than the actual one from last month. I don't know if that necessarily means he's lost his touch, but it does tell me that writer and director David Lowery has a bright future ahead of him. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, what really carries this movie through to the end is the performances. This is easily the best I've seen from Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Grace Meacham, a forest ranger who finds Pete in the woods, played brilliantly by relative newcomer Oakes Fegley. I've seen a lot of great child actors over the past couple of years, and he is no exception. Same goes for Oona Lawrence, who plays Natalie, the daughter of Grace's boyfriend Jack, played by Wes Bentley. My favorite unintentionally hilarious performance is Karl Urban as Jack's brother Gavin, who's the obligatory antagonist. Finally, there's Robert Redford as Mr. Meacham, Grace's father, who's the first person in their town to have ever encountered a dragon and live to tell the tale.
I see a bright future ahead for writer and director David Lowery after seeing this movie. What I like about it is that he's taken the basic skeleton of the original, and put his own unique spin on it. I would personally describe it as a blend of E.T., Room, and The Jungle Book, with a sprinkle of that old 1950's Disney magic. There's just something timeless about the story, which I know we've seen plenty of times before in other movies. So what makes this one different? I'd say it's the relationship between Pete and his new adoptive family, including his best friend Elliot.
Speaking of Elliot, how freaking amazing does that dragon look!? Once again, Weta Digital knocks it out of the park with their incredible visual effects. In fact, they've been having themselves a pretty excellent year so far, having previously worked on Deadpool, Batman V Superman, The Jungle Book and The BFG. Some of the best scenes are the ones that show off Elliot souring through the sky, as well as his impressive hide and seek skills when he turns invisible. Oh, and don't piss this dragon off, unless you want to be burnt to a crisp.
Finally, the music was pretty fantastic. Daniel Hart composed the score, which I'll admit can be a touch manipulative, but dammit it got me hook, line and sinker! There's also a handful of original songs written for the film, most notably "Something Wild" by Lindsey Stirling, featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.
I don't have that many major complaints, just a few minor nitpicks. Yes, the story is absolutely nothing new. Aside from being a remake, it's taking a lot of queues from the films I referenced above, but at least the characters are endearing, for the most part. Honestly, with the exception of Pete and the Meacham family, everyone else is pretty one note. Karl Urban is especially hilarious because there is absolutely no reason for this film to have a villain except to force some drama. I feel like he's aware of this, and intentionally hammed up the role until the last scene where he actually tries to save his brother from incident that he caused.
I don't even care if I get hate for this, but Pete's Dragon is excellent. This is the best kind of remake because at no point did I ever feel the need to compare it to the original, and neither did the film itself. It told its own story, with its own characters, and while it's not necessarily groundbreaking, it's still something that everyone can enjoy.
Alright guys, the floor is yours. Have you seen Pete's Dragon, and if so what did you think? Also, what's been your favorite Disney movie so far this year? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg make their first R-rated animated comedy in Sausage Party!