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Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: "Pete's Dragon" good for the whole family

Aug 11, 2016 06:25PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Oona Laurence and Oakes Fegley in Pete’s Dragon - © 2016 - Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Pete’s Dragon (Disney)

Rated PG for action, peril and brief language. 

Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, John Kassir (voice), Isiah Whitlock Jr., Marcus Henderson, Aaron Jackson, Phil Grieve, Steve Barr, Keagan Carr Fransch, Jade Valour, Augustine Frizzell, Francis Biggs,  Jasper Putt, Esmée Myers, Gareth Reeves, Levi Alexander.

Written by David Lowery and Toby Halbrooks, based on Pete's Dragon (1977) by Malcolm Marmorstein.

Directed by David Lowery.



When it comes to recycling, Disney has cornered the market. The mouse ears folks seem obsessed with the idea of repurposing their own content, with remakes and live-action versions of classic Disney animated features. You can add 1977’s Pete’s Dragon to the remake list, but the 2016 version bears little resemblance to the original musical comedy. In fact, the only similarity you’ll find in the 2016 version is an orphan boy named Pete whose best friend is a dragon named Elliot.

Oakes Fegley plays Pete (a younger version is played by Levi Alexander), young man whose parents are killed in car crash in the middle of the forest. Left on his own, the boy discovers a large, furry dragon he names Elliot (voiced by John Kassir, who utters growls and grunts), after a lost puppy in his favorite book. Flashing forward 6 years, Pete lives peacefully with his dragon pal until he is discovered by a forest ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) and taken back to the town of Mill Haven. Elliot is left behind, where a logger named Gavin (Karl Urban) hunts him. Gavin’s works for his brother and mill owner Jack (Wes Bentley), who has a daughter named Natalie (Oona Laurence). Jack is also Grace’s fiancé.  Grace’s father Meacham (Robert Redford) is a retired woodworker who claims to have seen the mysterious dragon in the forest many years before.

After Pete’s discovery, Elliot must decide whether it’s better to let Pete become part of a human family or take him back to the forest. Pete convinces Grace, Meacham and Natalie to go to the forest to meet Elliot, but their reunion is ruined when Gavin captures the dragon and takes him back to the mill, where he plans to exploit the animal. Pete, Meacham and Natalie help Elliot escape, but their path to freedom is threatened when Gavin and his posse give chase.

Pete’s Dragon is a sweet, albeit predictable family film with a heartwarming conclusion. The cast and production are adequate for the film’s intended purpose, which seems to center around the importance of family and friendship. The special effects are equally adequate, with the computer-generated dragon taking up a lot of screen time. Speaking of Elliot’s depiction, it seems that this kind of dragon is more like a dog, swapping scales for a thick coat of green fur and smoke-spewing nostrils for a large wet nose. If you’re a dragon “purist,” this might bother you, but since dragons aren’t real (as far as we know), I’m not sure any rules have been broken.

Note: A couple of Utah connections are involved in Pete’s Dragon. Prominent LDS artist Lindsey Stirling provides some of the film’s soundtrack while Doug Seus’ Bart the Bear 2 from the Rocky Mountain Wildlife ranch in Heber also appears in the film.

Pete's Dragon Trailer