Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon
To me, I’ve never actually seen the original Pete’s Dragon, but Maus tells me it was pretty bad. It just always seemed dopey and boring to me from what I could see. As far as I can tell this movie is far from the original, and that’s a good thing. The synopsis reads:
Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford), a woodcarver, delights local children with stories of a mysterious dragon that lives deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. His daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) believes these are just tall tales, until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley), a 10-year-old orphan who says he lives in the woods with a giant, friendly dragon. With help from a young girl named Natalie (Oona Laurence), Grace sets out to investigate if this fantastic claim can be true.
I joked with Maus at the end about how it was Hallmark Channel crossed with Tolkien. There were elements where things were just a little too sweet, but that may just be my jaded thirty-four year old self. Some of the acting during the more positive moments reminded me of those Hallmark movies I see sometimes when I’m waiting for The Golden Girls to come on. Those emotions have a time and place in art, and I think they were fully justified in this movie, I’m not faulting the plot with sentimentalism. So this isn’t really a complaint, I mean, come on, I watch the freakin’ Golden Girls. I’m just saying that some of the acting during the wholesome scenes was Hallmarky.
I wrote before in my review of Don’t Breathe that you want to write things that lose something in the summary. You have to experience the writing in order to really know what it’s about, so if a summary can explain the whole thing with nothing left over, then you don’t really have anything. I believe this movie is just on the edge of that and part of the reason I believe is the strict structure to which it adheres. Which is fine. I’m not going to say that when you read the above synopsis you don’t have to watch the movie, but there wasn’t anything necessarily very present in the movie that defied the description. This was good, but added a slight note of banality to an otherwise magical proceeding. I think it was this tinge of banality that had my older self grumbling a bit.
I think this film was better than Don’t Breathe (my last review) though the writer in me could see how the whole thing was structured from a narrative point of view. It had the difficulty of trying to figure out how to introduce a savage character into society, as well as how to introduce a magical creature into society. I thought it did fairly well for all of that. It didn’t have any moments where the young lead was completely dense as if he had never seen society at all. I could just picture him walking around, “What’s red?” That would’ve been awful.
The dragon was very well done, and I’m glad the movie seemed to go the direction of having both animatronic and 3D rendering spots throughout the movie to increase the believability of the creature. The attitude and general nature of the dragon was well conveyed. The idea is that it is a magical creature, and, as the movie puts it at one point, it’s magical to see it. The relationship between the boy and the dragon was beautiful, wild, and kind of made you wish that it could just stay like that forever.
The ‘bad guys’ in the film were a little run-of-the-mill short-sighted buffoons that I find in children’s movies sometimes, but they served a purpose well. In fact, I was worried that their implementation was going to be a little heavy handed, with huge morals about infringing upon nature and trying to subjugate the wild, but I was delightfully disappointed. The moral came out to be more about seeing the world and appreciation than what you should or shouldn’t do. Even the bad guy’s eventual realizations of his wrong-doings, obligatory in most family movies, was subtle and comfortably understated with a single shot.
The story was character driven, the situations came about logically and intersected with character’s interests, foreshadowing was WAAAY better than Don’t Breathe, and heavy-handed morals were thankfully out of the way. Not that there wasn’t a moral, but thankfully the moral I believe came from a place of lovingness rather than punitiveness.
Sometimes we forget that the world is very wide, and despite all our advances, we don’t necessarily always know what’s out there. I’m not saying dragons are real, but I am saying that this movie can serve as a reminder to us to keep our eyes and minds open. Too easily and too often we just shirk off what’s going on around us because we think we already have a narrative figured out, but maybe every once in a while it’s a good idea to just sit back and look around wide-eyed with wonder. I mean, what can it hurt?
In all then, I would recommend this movie to all families and particularly younger children with vibrant and active imaginations. There’s something about the dragon, and its relationship to the heroes of the story, that invokes a certain sense of creative magic and wonder. It reminded me when I was writing about my own 101 dragons and elements, and really charged me to want to write more.
I don’t usually re-watch movies a whole lot on my own, but I would gladly re-watch this movie was a family with my nephews. It was heart-warming, real, and spoke on a universal level. So, five stars.
This review is part of a list of Movie’s Asher’s Seen
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