Review: Pete’s Dragon (2016)


1977’s Pete’s Dragon is one of Disney’s most popular animated films. On the heels of adaptations of Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon finally gets its turn.

Like most Disney stories, this story starts with a tragedy – After a horrific car accident kills his parents, a young boy named Pete (Oakes Fegley) is left orphaned, wandering in the woods. He’s befriended by a fuzzy green magical dragon he names Elliot. Six years later, Pete spends his days cheerfully running through the forest, playing with Elliot. One day, he discovered by a young girl named Natalie (Southpaw’s Oona Laurence) and Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), a forest ranger. The sheriffs and Grace try to find out who Pete is, how he survived for six years, and more about his mysterious friend Elliot.

Pete’s Dragon is much more than a film about a boy and his magical dragon. It’s about family and friendship. Pete is Elliot’s only friend, and Elliot is Pete’s only friend. Meacham (Robert Redford) tells a tale of how dragons sometimes get lost and are known to live in the forest – Pete and Elliot are both lost without their families and all they have is each other.

After Pete’s discovered, Jack (Wes Bentley), Natalie, and Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) act as a surrogate family, even though all he wants to do is get back to the only family he knows – Elliot. The more time Pete spends with the family, the more he starts to trust them and realize where he belongs. There was a similar theme navigated throughout The Good Dinosaur earlier this year.

The most fascinating part of this film is how much emotion director David Lowery got out of a CGI dragon. Elliot never speaks and is able to show a better range of emotion than some actors. It’s reminiscent of what Pixar was able to do with 2008’s Wall-E. In one scene, Elliot is looking through the window at Pete and you could hear Elliot’s heart breaking.  There are some very powerful emotional scenes that are unexpected. There’s even some legitimate tear-jerker moments and most them involve a CGI dragon.

Oakes Fegley is a good young actor. His portrayal of Pete is one-part Jack from Room and one-part Mowgli from this year’s The Jungle Book. That’s not to take away from his performance, he was able to blend the best parts of both performances and create a character that is independent but also craved the love and security of a family.

Pete’s Dragon is easily one of Disney’s best adaptations. Pete’s Dragon is the perfect family movie to end the summer. It captures the spirit and emotion of the animated film without losing any of the magic that makes that story so charming.

Grade: B+