My oldest son Griffyn and I had the pleasure of pre-screening Pete’s Dragon. If you are looking for a family movie, this one cannot be missed. Think back to all your past favorites from the 70’s and 80’s, this movie has captured that magic. The family movie is back!
Directed by David Lowery with a screenplay by Toby Halbrooks, this movie is a surprising success. 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 could be true.
Although the timeframe isn’t explicitly mentioned, it seems several decades removed from now. This was the first thing that struck me. The story is wrapped in a more modern setting than the original, but it’s still removed from the present — a simpler time with no electronic distractions where a simple children’s book can shine as a plot device for the story. And all this before we ever meet the dragon. As we held our breath hoping that the reveal wouldn’t disappoint, we were greeted on screen by a perfect CGI beast with a nod to the sweetness and goofy personality of the original. We wanted to take Elliot home with us. Being a fan of the first, I can’t help but make comparisons. All of the essential elements are there but re-imagined and retold in a way that merely hints at its predecessor.
Since this iteration is not a musical, we see the story unfold in a different way, but the pacing is perfect. The movie never drags, nor does it run away with fiery explosions and window dressing. The story is key, and it’s a moving story of relationship and trust that will find even the most stoic tough guy wiping “that thing out of his eye” from time to time. The only downside that we detected was the 3-D. Some of the effects were decent, especially with the dragon, but on the whole, it was so underused that it’s not worth the upgrade.
If you are going out to the movies this weekend, do not miss this one. It is a must see that delivers on the magic which will make you see the world a little differently.