Another month, another Disney remake...
An update on the 1977 musical, Pete's Dragon sees a young child named Pete wander into the woods after his parents perish in a car crash and a friendly green dragon he calls Elliot takes him under its wing: years later, the inhabitants of a nearby town finally find Pete.
Not that they were looking...
The original Pete's Dragon may not have enjoyed quite as much praise as, say, Mary Poppins over the years but it remains one of Disney's most charming live-action films to date so a remake would certainly need to get Pete and his dragon right. Fortunately, the film achieves just that as young Oakes Fegley gives an appropriately wild performance as Pete and Elliot, while looking hairier and more dog-like, is still pretty adorable. Their friendship is once again the heart of the story and it still works. The big difference with this remake, however, is that Elliot isn't so much Pete's dragon as he is just a random dragon who happens to live in the woods. He befriends Pete and they become inseparable but the whole imaginary friend theory is dismissed pretty quickly leaving little to the imagination.
The cast, which includes Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard and Karl Urban does well despite the fact that the characters they play are mostly bland. Urban's "villain" isn't really a bad guy and he poses a very mild threat during the movie making it a very tame story. In the original film, Pete not only had to worry about the entire town hating his guts and Elliot unintentionally causing all sorts of damage but he was pursued by a vile family trying to turn him into a slave and charlatan Dr Terminus whose plan was to dismember Elliot and sell him bit by bit. You get Pete and Elliot's relationship but you never really feel like either of them's in real danger here. The film is shot like a travel ad and the music throughout is disappointingly generic. You can tell the goal was to make a more palatable version of Where The Wild Things Are but Pete's Dragon feels much too lightweight in comparison.
While not a bad film and probably one of the better Disney live-action remakes, this new Pete's Dragon still lacks the charm, joy and emotional punch of the original. There are some nice moments here and there and the film's heart is in the right place but, ultimately, this is a much too safe, mostly forgettable effort and the Harry & The Hendersons-style ending is baffling, to say the least.
Harmless if inferior re-imagining.