Today I’ve decided to review the Disney re-imagining of Pete’s Dragon.
Pete’s Dragon stars Oakes Fegley as Pete, a young orphaned boy living in the forest with a magical dragon he calls Elliott. One day Pete is discovered by a park ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who takes him in against his will until they can find him a proper home. As Pete learns how to be part of a family, Elliott attempts to find Pete and bring him back to his home in the woods.
The real star of this film, Elliott the dragon, will easily find the soft spot of any viewer’s heart. He reminds me of a big fluffy dog that is both loving and overprotective. I feel that this design and character of Elliott had just the right combination of nostalgia and new, making him a likable dragon for just about any audience. Scenes that involved Elliott were always pleasant and appealing to watch.
A lot of time is dedicated to developing the relationship between Pete and Elliott, and for good reason! The bond that forms between the two is by far the most interesting thing going on in Pete’s Dragon. There are plenty of very entertaining scenes where we see Pete and Elliott interacting, living their day-to-day in the middle of the forest. What’s great about these scenes is there is a minimal amount of dialogue used, relying on nonverbal expressions to convey meanings. Just about everything pertaining to Elliott and Pete was fantastic, and I had a lot of fun watching the two interact.
Unfortunately where this film fails is in its boring characters and underwhelming plot. Any scene that involved only the human characters I thought was dull. Bryce Dallas Howard and Wes Bently were particularly bad, as their performances were about as interesting as dirt. I can’t blame them too much, because just about everyone in this production delivered sub par acting.
The plot itself felt very standard, and nothing too interesting ever happened. Pete’s Dragon just kind of goes from place to place, hitting all the usual points as needed. While it was engaging enough to hold my attention, it never really got me excited to see what would happen next. So by the time the third act rolled around, things began getting very predictable and completely unsurprising.
The antagonist of Pete’s Dragon, a lumber mill foreman named Gavin, was one of the most clichéd villains I’ve seen in a very long time. Every action he took, every word he muttered, was completely by the numbers script writing. Who honestly thinks that this idiotic ‘tear the forest down’ type of antagonist is the least bit creative, or interesting? I was quite astonished to see such a lazily written villain in a major Disney release.
Director David Lowery seemed very obsessed with filming the same reaction shots of characters over and over again. The characters would whimsically gaze into the distant sky in the cheesiest and most overdramatic way possible. When I first noticed the camera doing this, I found it relatively amusing. By the end of the film, it got to be extremely obnoxious. I’m not exaggerating when I say you could turn this “whimsical gaze” look into a drinking game. However I don’t recommend it because you might die of alcohol poisoning.
Pete’s Dragon definitely had its delightful moments, and I’m sure that many kids and families will get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Being that there isn’t anything inappropriate for children, it’s really no harm no foul if people love this interpretation of Pete’s Dragon. Personally, I found it to be very underwhelming, with a plot that never really takes off and a cast that was downright boring.
So if you enjoy most other Disney live-action films, you’ll most likely have a good time watching Pete’s Dragon. If you’re like me and expect a little more magic from Disney productions, then you could probably give this one a pass.
The Verdict: C