Film Reviews

Pete’s Dragon: A Remake That Works

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There’s something wonderful about a movie that includes NO cell phones or devices of any kind. That’s the first thing that sprung to mind while watching “Pete’s Dragon,” a remake of the classic 1977 Disney film. I think it’s one of the reasons why Netflix’s “Stranger Things” is such a huge hit. People yearn for a time when kids rode their bikes everywhere and weren’t stuck inside playing video games all the time.

The second thing that sprang to mind is that “Pete’s Dragon” is a really beautiful movie. Remakes don’t always hit the mark, but this one does. The story begins with Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) telling a group of kids a story about a dragon who lives in the nearby forest. His daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), is a forest ranger who doesn’t believe a word of it. SHE’s never seen the dragon, and she knows that woods like the back of her hand.

Then Grace meets Pete (Oakes Fegley), a 10-year-old orphan who says he’s been living in the woods for years — with a green dragon named Elliot. Grace takes him home, but with loggers threatening to chop down the wilderness, Pete is determined to get back to the woods to help Elliot.

“Pete’s Dragon” is one of those rare family movies that both kids and grownups will love. Parents will love the sweet and wholesome story, and kids will find Pete and his loveable dragon enchanting.

While the original film portrayed Elliot as an animated character, this remake is all live action, with Elliot a CG (computer generated) character. As mentioned, there are no cell phones or Internet, because like the original film, the story is set in the 1970s, when life was slower and less complicated.

As with most Disney movies, there’s a missing parent. In this case, two missing parents, which lead to Pete being orphaned.

Young Oakes Fegley delivers a fine performance as Pete. You may recognize him as Gabriel Hayward on “Person of Interest” or young Elias Thompson on “Boardwalk Empire.” Redford is charming as a grandfather who still believes in magic, and Howard is great as a dedicated forest ranger. Good casting all around.

Along with the enchanting story, “Pete’s Dragon” also has an important underlying message about taking care of your family, both biological and otherwise, and the wilderness as something to be protected and cherished.

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