David Lowery / Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Robert Redford / Adventure, Fantasy / 2016 / PG / 102mins
The family film continues Disney’s sprawling live-action reboot enterprise, this time sprucing up the 1977 original. I expected good things but a decent, well-to-do trailer fooled me. Pete’s Dragon promised Spielbergian glory, instead it LIED GODDAMMIT.
Keeping the 70s theme, Pete, a five year old boy, is on a road trip with his parents. A sudden dramatic car crash sees them killed off in the blink of an eye, but Pete miraculously survives. Who saves Pete from certain doom? A green dragon he lovingly calls Elliot. Flashforward six years and the lumber industry lies on their doorstep, threatening to destroy their home.
It starts off so well – the introduction handling the car crash that kills Pete’s parents is actually fantastic. Many people praised the film’s Spielbergian efforts… I’d have to counter that. The dragon revealed in the prologue. There’s no sense of mystery thereafter. End of. Also, the ‘bad guy’ subplot is never resolved. I have to assume some fairy dust was involved in the creative process. How has this mythical beast not affected his life to some degree? Does everyone just accept him for who he is? BUT HEY IT’S A FAMILY FILM WHO CARES?!
So the kid actor isn’t Macaulay Culkin, but he stayed true to his character well and seemed genuinely damaged by the loss of his parents. He was a redeeming feature. The others were not. Flat cast and flat characters do not gel in the slightest. Restrained would be a better word – everyone has this reserved ‘Baby Rhyme Time at the Library’ approach to life. Dallas Bryce Howard and Robert Redford fall victim to this especially.
Although the dragon looks a little goofy, the CGI is adequate. This is like one of those weird Disney B-movies that are churned out year after year and suddenly appear on Sky Movies, except this one had a budget large enough to trigger Ponzi Scheme alarmbells. Considering the dark and original direction the recent Jungle Book remake took, you would half expect Pete’s Dragon to do the same. Alas, no.
The film equivalent of a nice cup of cocoa, but this cocoa’s drowned out with fluffy marshmallows. Americanised family adventure that young kids would like (note: won’t love, and that goes for parents too).
Film as a film – 2 / Target Audience – 3 / General Audience – 2
Pete’s Dragon will be out on DVD by the end of the year, unless it’s still at your cinema then by all means…
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