Pete’s Dragon is the latest in a long line of Disney films to be reworked, reimagined or rebooted in some way. First released in 1977, Pete’s Dragon told the story of a young boy named Pete who befriended a dragon named Elliot. The dragon had the ability to become invisible, and he served as Pete’s protector and greatest ally. Though more than a little saccharine, it was a sweet, charming film. However, the mix of live-action with animation looks clumsy by today’s standards, so it’s perhaps right that the story isn’t left to be forgotten, but rather brought up to date with a more modern version.
2016’s Pete’s Dragon stars newcomer Oakes Fegley as Pete, with Robert Redford as Mr. Meacham, the man who tells stories to the local children of a dragon living in the woods. Bryce Dallas Howard also stars as his daughter, Grace Meacham, who works as a forest ranger and finds Pete, who has been living alone with the help of Elliott. The movie keeps many of the same story elements but retells it in its own way, changing the setting to the Pacific Northwest and the time to somewhere in the realm of modern day. Of course, Elliott also looks a whole lot more ‘real’ as well, but as previous trailers have shown, the film moves at a much more adventurous pace than the original, and seems to deliver a story that will be much more watchable to modern day audiences.
Pete’s Dragon has now landed in U.S. theaters, and we have rounded up a selection of reviews below. Warning for potential spoilers if you click on the links to read the reviews in full.
Variety – Peter Debruge:
“One of the year’s most delightful moviegoing surprises, a quality family film that rewards young people’s imaginations and reminds us of a time when the term “Disney movie” meant something: namely, wholesome entertainment that inspired confidence in parents and reinforced solid American values. It’s old-fashioned in all the right ways, from the patient pace at which the story unfolds to the appearance of Robert Redford as its grizzled narrator.”
The Film Stage – Jordan Raup:
“Pete’s Dragon sets an ideal standard for what Hollywood should be doing in the remake realm. In capturing childlike wonder through Pete’s eyes, this film has more than a few heartbreaking moments regarding the definition of a home and the people (or fantastical creatures) that give it life. And by keeping things relatively small-scale, David Lowery’s studio debut retains a personal touch with an unceasing supply of magic running through its lovable, full-hearted soul.”
Indiewire– David Ehrlich:
“The word you’re looking for is “sincerity.” It’ll be on the tip of your tongue from the opening shots of “Pete’s Dragon,” a warm, wistful, and wholly wonderful remake of a 1977 Disney musical that today’s kids have never heard of and yesterday’s kids have long since forgotten. That word, baked into every aspect of this rewarding live-action fable, will be staring you in the face as the film’s powerful prologue careens from adventure to tragedy and back again.”
THR – Michael Rechtshaffen:
“Despite there being ample room for improvement, the extensively reimagined Pete’s Dragon fails to breathe fresh life into the 40-year-old property. Directed and co-written by David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), the notably darker interpretation turns out to be, like the CG creature itself, a moody, lumbering thing that seldom takes flight. While it could still hold some appeal to families searching for late-summer distractions, the film won’t come close to reaching the high box-office benchmark set by the likes of Finding Dory, The Jungle Book and Zootopia.”
The Wrap – Russ Fischer:
“Creating a wonderful screen creature, a thing with personality, power, even a little menace, isn’t easy. Giving it a fully-realized home is far more difficult. The filmmaker behind the sober crime drama Ain’t Them Bodies Saints may have seemed an odd choice to revamp an awkward and goofy Disney film, but David Lowery‘s ease with actors and command of tone make “Pete’s Dragon” one of the best remakes in recent years.”
The Telegraph – Robbie Collin:
“Aside from its title and broad premise, David Lowery’s film is just a make, or a boot, with its own beguiling aura of sun-bathed, mud-spattered nostalgia and soul-soothing folk tale to tell. In fact, it’s a vastly superior film to the fondly remembered but badly dated original.”
Overall, then, the reviews are positive. While Pete’s Dragon might not set the cinematic world alight, it has managed to deliver a charming tale with plenty of heart, that infinitely exceeds the original. You could argue that woasn’t going to be hard, given the quality of the 1977 version, but full credit to director Lowery for knowing how to completely reimagine a movie while still being faithful to its roots. It seems as though Pete’s Dragon may yet become fondly known to a whole new generation when it goes on wide release in 2 weeks’ time.
Pete’s Dragon will be released in U.S. theaters on August 12th, 2016.
Sources: Various [see the above links]