This review was not written by me, it was written by my good friend Yaseen Fawzi. I wanted to share some of his reviews by posting them on my website. All credit goes to him, not me. I think he is a great reviewer 🙂 I know this version of Pete’s Dragon was released back in August (it is now September), but so what. 🙂 Here is Yaseen’s review of Pete’s Dragon below.
Pete’s Dragon 2016 version
August 17, 2016
Pete’s Dragon is the second Disney live-action remake released this year, the first one being The Jungle Book. Based on the 1977 film of the same name, it tells the story of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend, a dragon named Elliot. One day, a logging crew from the town of Millhaven discover Pete and he is soon taken into custody by park ranger Grace Meachem. Pete makes friends with Grace, her husband Jack, and their daughter Natalie. However, Jack’s brother Gavin soon hears about Elliot, believing him to be a ferocious monster, and gathers a hunting party to track the creature down. The stakes are raised when Pete and his new friends have to prove the townspeople wrong in their assumptions about Elliot before it is too late.
Director David Lowery handles the material with a more delicate touch and greater degree of subtlety than the original ’77 version. Gone is the emphasis on madcap hijinks and in its place comes a quaint tale with a greater sense of danger as Pete and Elliot are taken out of the forest. The film firmly establishes Elliot as being the only real connection for Pete after his parents’ deaths, along with a visual motif of a picture book Pete carries around as a memento. Much of the “Pete’s Dragon” remake also calls to one’s mind such films as The Neverending Story and The Black Stallion, both of which were made at a time when live-action family films put more focus on story and character development than obnoxious humor and flash-in-the-pan trends. There are still a few doses of humor thrown in, but they are not as in-your-face this time around. Overall, the remake follows enough of a different structure from its earlier counterpart that it is one of those few that actually work as a standalone film as well.
The effects on Elliot by Weta Digital actually make him look much more lifelike here than in the cutout-like pencil animation effects of the original, especially on his detailed fur, camouflage, and fire breathing, to the point that one gradually starts to see him as a natural part of the scenery. Most of the human characters, especially the Millhaven townspeople, also seem better developed, with more three-dimensional personalities being established, as opposed to the cast comprising mostly of bumbling coots, like in the 1977 film. Setting a majority of the film in the forest (with the locations being filmed in New Zealand) gives it a greater scope that the original didn’t have, which adds to its stronger appeal. With no musical numbers in sight, the score by newcomer Daniel Hart is left to further enhance the heartwarming character moments between Pete, Elliot, and their adoptive family, as well as the rousing action.
In terms of performances, the young leads, Oakes Fegley as the feral Pete and Oona Laurence as Natalie, achieve that delicate aspect of innocence in great child performances without overacting or coming across as annoying. Bryce Dallas Howard adds a fine touch of motherly affection to the character of Grace. Robert Redford portrays Grace’s father with a great deal of warmhearted honesty and nuance. Wes Bentley and Karl Urban play the brothers Jack and Gavin as opposite personalities, Jack being very levelheaded while Gavin is more paranoid. All of these actors add in the necessary nuances to develop believable personas for their characters.
Like the Jungle Book remake from Disney earlier this year, Pete’s Dragon is one of those rarest of birds: a remake on par with (or in this case, better than) the original.
* * * * (Out of * * * *) “Ya-stars”