Pete’s Dragon (2016) Review

Pete’s Dragon, the remake of the 1970s, isn’t really much of a remake. Its more of a reimagining. Gone are all the musical numbers and weird subplots that included child abuse, alcoholism and snake oil salesmen. Instead we are given a simple but effective film about a boy who loses his parents at a young age in the middle of the woods befriending a dragon and making the forest his home for the next 6 years.

It’s refreshing to watch a movie that isn’t so concerned with rushing and packing so many plot points in, afraid to lose the interest of the viewers. A movie about a 10 year old kid with a dragon is obviously pointed towards a younger crowd, but the filmmakers made sure to take its time, and avoid going into A.D.D. slapstick for fear that the kids would get bored. The moments with Pete and Elliot were fun and cheerful. There was a real sense of friendship and caring between the two, which is no small feat, large credit going to using what appears to be a great blend of practical and special effects. While some moments with Elliot appeared more CGI, they did a good job making him feel like he was truly part of the world around him. A small but important touch was his fur and when ever someone was close enough to touch him it reminded us that he actually could be touched.

The acting was good all around as all the characters felt fleshed out and though some were meant to be the antagonist, they all were sympathetic. Moments where Gavin (played by Karl Ubran) is hunting Elliot were handled well with showing that the dragon was capable of being fierce and defending himself without making him something to fear, just respect, as any animal should be. The supporting cast was well rounded and no character felt superfluous, but what made really makes or breaks a movie like this is of course, the child actors.

Oakes Fegley did a fantastic job playing Pete, not just for his age but for the part itself. I really appreciated that they didn’t rush him from feral child to domesticated but instead allowed him to be a child that has spent much of his fundamental years fending for himself. The moment he is cornered, back to the fence and he begins to howl like the caged animal he felt he was was quite strong, it easily could have felt weird but they got it right. The actress was also very good and a natural friend to pete. The two of them had great chemistry and I’m glad they didn’t go for any weird budding romance between to the two children, leaving it at a strong friendship.

Really, with Pete’s dragon there is little to really criticize. Sure some moments may have lulled a little here and there, and there were some moments of humor that didn’t quite land but this was a solid movie that is great for kids and families. It had heart and a simple story that was a nice way to spend a few hours.

4 out of 5