Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks
Remake of: Pete’s Dragon (1977)
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Marcus Henderson
Seen on: 31.8.2016
After his parents die in a car crash, Pete (Oakes Fegley) finds himself in the woods, seemingly all alone. But it soon turns out that there is somebody with him after all: a big, green dragon Pete calls Elliot. Together they have a good life in the forest until the local lumber company run by brothers Jack (Wes Bentley) and Gavin (Karl Urban) starts encroaching on their territory. Pete becomes curious and approaches Jack’s daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence), which ultimately leads to him being caught by the adults and brought in to the city by ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who happens to be Jack’s fiancée. But Pete doesn’t want to leave the forest behind, much less Elliot – and his stories of a dragon in the forest can become quite dangerous for Elliot.
Pete’s Dragon is very different from the movie it’s based on, but I did enjoy it – more so than I expected I would. But I didn’t really fall in love with it.
I really love the old film, but I was a little hesitant about the remake because it simply looked nothing like the old one and seemed pretty far removed – an impression that isn’t wrong. This version of the story is almost dark – it definitely feels much darker than the original. And it doesn’t have that much to do with it anymore anyway, making one wonder why they felt it necessary to call this a remake and/or Pete’s Dragon instead of just making it a new thing entirely with a special thanks to the old film.
Be that as it may, the resulting film is sweet and works nicely for the most part. It surprised me most of all in that it’s actually rather well written and it trusts its audience enough to infer quite a few things in the dialogues but not necessarily making it explicit. That’s a rare quality in Hollywood films, and rarer still in films for kids. It certainly adds quite a bit of depth, especially in the characters and their relationships with each other and it avoids oversimplifying things into strict black and white. It was simply lovely. [At this point I should point out that I saw the film in the German dubbed version because I was watching it with my niece.]
The cast is also really good, playing on the hints in the script and giving them the appropriate emotional weight. Although even they couldn’t quite pull off the environmental message that was kept a little too superficial and inconsistently.
Every once in a while, the film was actually funny and both the film and the dragon are very cute. I can see childhood!me watching the film, loving it and desperately wishing for a dragon friend like Pete has in the film. And any film that makes kids wish for their very own dragon is a good film in my books.