When it comes to remaking the classics, you can’t mess with Disney’s record. The company turned the tale of Sleeping Beauty on its head in Maleficent grossing over $240 million dollars domestically. The Mouse then followed up that live action success with the gorgeous Cinderella and the visually stunning The Jungle Book. Walt Disney Pictures managed to do the impossible by remaking their beloved classics into new films that garnered the respect of both critics and fans alike.
Next up on the Disney remake list is Pete’s Dragon. This new take on Pete and his giant invisible dragon Elliot is much different from the original 1977 film. Most would agree the first film does not stand the test of time. The acting is cheesy, the special effects leave a lot to be desired and most of the music is weak going by Disney song standards. Newcomer David Lowery takes full advantage of the large room for improvement as both writer and director of this remake set in the Pacific Northwest in 1982.
Gone is the early 1900s seaside Maine village of Passamaquoddy, the abusive hillbilly foster parents and the goofy singing orphan and his animated dragon. Enter a more modernized tale with zero singing and a new version of Elliot the dragon that looks like something out of graphic novel. Never fear though purists. Elliot may be given a computer graphics upgrade, but certain parts of the big dragon’s personality and physical traits are still present. The grunting communication, green fur and awkward flight patterns from the original come to life in this new film that should appease fans of the original.
Pete (Oaks Fegley) on the other hand is much different this time around. The apple eating orphan act is dropped for a child who is more on the lines of Mowgli from The Jungle Book. The wild child’s life with Elliot makes for a delightful first half as Pete is reintroduced into society after a terrible accident left him in the woods with his dragon protector for years. Pete and Elliot are definitely one of the best duos of the summer with a friendship that is bound to tug at a few heartstrings.
The second half of Pete’s Dragon turns into an action adventure film that will have audience members of all ages smiling from ear to ear as Elliot shows off his dragon skills. The cast including Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban and Robert Redford all perform well, but Oaks Fegley is the shinning start and the relationship between Pete and Elliot is what drives the film. Disney continues their winning remake formula with Pete’s Dragon and makes us believe that magic still does exist in this world if you just look hard enough.
Overall, I give Pete’s Dragon 3 out of 4 solid stars.
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