The following review was written by our friend and contributor Dani Ganley. Many thanks to Dani for this great review!
Dani Ganley- Disney newest summer film, Pete’s Dragon, takes a cult classic and remakes it into live-action with an original story for a new age. Yes, the original Pete’s Dragon was mostly live-action with the exception of the goofy green dragon Elliot, but the 2016 film makes everything look completely real— even Elliot. Pete’s Dragon follows in the footsteps of adaptations of classic stories turned live-action like Cinderella and the Jungle Book. This film’s successful retelling proves that creativity and classic magic are alive and well at the Studios.
What the new film does not follow is the plot of the original Pete’s Dragon from 1977. The 2016 film keeps the integrity and sentimentality of the classic film intact while presenting a brand new story. As many Disney fans know, the original movie featured silly songs, a crazy hillbilly family, a goofy green dragon with pink hair, an odd lighthouse keeper and genuine heart. Instead of tarnishing the sentimentality and memories of the 1977 tale, the new film offers an original storyline while keeping only the genuine friendship between a boy and his best friend, Elliot.
Rather than going in a whimsical, musical direction, director and screenwriter David Lowery (set to direct the live-action remake of Peter Pan) and co-screenwriter Toby Halbrooks took the classic Pete’s Dragon and reimagined it into a story about an orphaned boy, Pete, who has befriended a dragon, Elliot, in the forest not too far from the town of Millhaven in the Pacific Northwest. From the moment the story begins, you are drawn into tales of a fierce dragon who lives in the woods that only an old woodcarver has seen.
I was absolutely captivated from beginning to end. The movie is by no means action-packed or scary, but it offers a wonderful adventure with characters that are impossible not to fall in love with.
Oakes Fegley shines as Pete. At just 12 years old, he genuinely conveys a 10-year-old orphan’s struggle between staying in the woods with Elliot or starting a new life with a human family. Elliot doesn’t disappoint either. His personality, protectiveness and beauty make him a lovable and charismatic character. His expression and reactions come across so well, you almost feel like you know exactly what he’s saying.
The soundtrack, featuring music composed by Daniel Hart, accompanies the film wonderfully, drawing you into the scenes. The folk song about a tall tale of dragons in the North is almost spellbinding. Though we don’t hear the classic “Candle on the Water,” there is a tribute with a version of it performed by Okkervil River.
The direction they took the movie in will be a great way to draw new audiences in so that they too can discover the heart and soul of the cherished original. While Cinderella and the Jungle Book had the advantage of being household names, Pete’s Dragon is new, or at least not as well known, to the majority of people, so it has to stand on its own movie magic at the box office.
Pete’s Dragon reminds us there is beauty and magic in nature if we are open to seeing it. Head to the theatre with the whole family and you’ll leave with your heart feeling full.