THE MIDDLE 5 OF 2016: PETE’S DRAGON

PETE’S DRAGON REVIEWED

“Pete’s Dragon” is not the follow-up film I expected from the guy that directed “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”. Then, I hear he’s helming the Peter Pan revamp and I wonder why Disney is going out of their way to turn a promising indie director into the newest Robert Stevenson. Keeping that in mind while watching the film, I admired the tonal and content changes for a modern era. From the kid sensitive opening car crash to the introduction of Elliot the Dragon, I knew that this was going to be different. What I didn’t expect was how indifferent it was from Disney’s live-action output in the mid 1980s. Tone down the special effects a bit and this could’ve easily been a coming attraction on your “Journey of Natty Gann” VHS tape.

Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford keep the heart of the film intact, but they never get a moment to shine. Why? Well, because there’s not really an adversaries. Karl Urban is the closest thing to a bad guy, but he’s just an average slob doing his job. All he wants to do is convince the town that he saw the dragon that Redford has been talking about for decades. The film goes out of its way to evoke kid film classics like “The Black Stallion” and “E.T.” to the point that it starts creeping into stalkerish homage. That being said, the film goes out of its way to wear its heart on its sleeve.

It’s been ages since I’ve seen a film that just celebrates a kid’s ability to dream and create working fantasy out of terror. What happens to Pete is traumatic and worrisome enough to turn him feral. But, Elliot is an anchor to fantasy as understood in a way that only propagates in rural communities removed from modern technology and vices. A few writers are already making a big deal about the possible time era of the film. Does it matter?

A tale of a kid convincing a town to believe and celebrate is goofy enough to power itself. There’s no need to fear or hunt. Everyone in this lumber driven locale just wants to experience something bigger than the mundane nature of their lives. This has been a weird summer for Disney, but it’s nice to see that they cap the season with this entry. Stellar work all around.

FILM STATS

  • 1 hr and 42 mins
  • PG
  • Disney

RELEASE DATE: 8/12/16

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