Pete’s Dragon (2016) a film review. 

Director: David Lowery

Running time: 1 hour 42mins. 

Cast : Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban. 

Young Pete is orphaned as a 5 year old while on a woodland trip and he is brought up Tarzan style by a dragon. Disney’s live action version update is well cast and I was a little shocked to see Robert Redford acting in this, when it’s already got Bryce Dallas Howard as a woodland ranger called Grace. Grace discovers Pete as he’s been living in the woodland for many years. A child couldn’t have survived so long alone so who helped him? 

We know it’s a dragon but the adult in me was often questioning the logic how he would have survived even with a dragon, even one who could fly, breathe fire and turn invisible. 

The dragon is more of a hairy green puppy but that said it’s pretty seamless as it blends into the live action. I was impressed with how I couldn’t notice a jarring join. Oakes Fegley is Pete and he himself handles the role just fine it’s just that he’s written to not know what a balloon is after not having seen one for six years, or Windows for that matter. 

There were a bunch of moments like that where my logic struggled with the plausibility. But then I only had to look at my sons face as we rooted for Karl Urban not to locate ‘Elliot’ the large furry pal. 

The way that Pete seems to imprint on Elliot is never fully explained and yet there’s an undeniable bond. Which made it all the more surprising when Pete too easily adopts a human family life for a spell mid movie and seems to have moved on from his winged friend. 

Naturally the movie has a varnish of schmaltz and family lessons of unity to teach. But it kept me guessing as to the outcome. Would Pete choose returning to humanity or believe Elliot to be his family now? 

Would he ever get a haircut? What did Elliot eat? 

There are pulls at the heartstrings and moments of elation which make for a gentle journey for all the family to enjoy. A magical tale for those of us who still know what it is to want to own our own Falkor from THE NEVERENDING STORY. 

Speaking of similar films, the feral boy motif flys too close to Tarzan and The Jungle Book plus How To Train Your Dragon is still up and running. So it’s not exactly fresh ground. But I preferred this to The BFG. 

Family values in a family film, Disney playing to their strengths. 

C Whitehouse 2016. 

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