Between the years 1996 and 2014, Disney wasn’t in the remake business. After 101 Dalmatians failed to attract the audiences’ attention, Disney scrapped the idea of live-action remakes in favor of animations and live-action films that weren’t remakes of previously animated films. However, when Maleficent hit the big screens in March of 2014, the viewing public took notice. While the 1977 version of Pete’s Dragon was a hybrid of live-action and animation ala Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the studio still remade the film in 2016. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Karl Urban, the film made a profit but… truthfully, it’s a very bland movie.
Howard and Redford play Grace and Mr. Meacham. Grace is a park ranger in a town named Millburn. Mr. Meacham often tells the children stories about a dragon he encountered in the nearby woods as a youth. The kids are always enraptured but Grace doesn’t believe him. However, the dragon is real and his name is Elliot. An orphan boy, Pete (Oakes Fegley), discovered him in the forest six years previous after a car accident killed his parents. Elliot saved him and helped him survive. One day, Pete is discovered by Natalie (Oona Laurence), Grace’s future step-daughter. Gavin (Urban), Natalie’s uncle, tries to help Pete but renders him unconscious. Gavin, a wild card lumberjack, sets out to hunt Elliot and bring him in by any means possible so he can make a name for himself.
I will admit that I still managed to cry watching Pete’s Dragon but that’s only because the last thirty minutes of the film managed to make me care long enough to be emotionally moved by the events happening on the screen. For me, the story is supposed to be about Pete and Elliot. While Howard and Redford were engaging and Urban was just annoying enough to be the villain, the film didn’t give me enough Elliot as I was hoping it would. There was plenty of Pete and Pete’s story is moving, don’t get me wrong, but Elliot is an oversized green puppy and he was too cute to ignore.
Perhaps the reason I feel like this is because the story was so slow. An hour and forty-four minutes felt like three hours and besides the last thirty minutes, I felt the film never got anywhere. I was very bored. Which is a shame because Howard and Fegley were fantastic. Their chemistry together was adorable and I need to see more films that feature Howard with children. Maybe it’s because Howard always seems so bubbly and effervescent that she does well with children. I don’t know but Howard was cute this movie and it’s always a delight to see her on screen.
Redford was great too. Of course, when is he ever not great? Mr. Meacham had some of the best parts of the film. Again, especially in the last thirty minutes as he helps Pete and Elliot escape capture. I suppose what the film lacked was humor and Redford gave just enough in those moments that it helped lighten the film and helped make it a little more bearable.
In all, Pete’s Dragon was a drab film. Over dramatic, dragon lite, and boring, the movie only found its footing in the last thirty minutes and that’s when I started to finally care when I should’ve cared from the beginning.
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