Disney seems intent on the concept of remakes and while you can question the originality of it all, you can’t fault some of the delivery, and Pete’s Dragon (2016) is the best of the recent crop. Taking things in a completely different direction to the 1977 musical original, it’s a real world adventure with a fantastical twist in its brilliantly animated dragon tail.
It makes for a good DVD collection addition for the family with a strong story centring on a kid called Pete who gets abandoned out in the middle of nowhere when his parents are involved in a car accident. It’s pretty extreme as an opener to the film, which is impossible to skip over, but as soon as he comes face to face with his dragon, who he calls Elliot (obviously), it gets a lot less sad and intense in a slightly surreal way.
The plot doesn’t really take shape until Pete is a little older, having grown up in the forest with Elliot as his protector. When he comes back into contact with people again as the logging industry from the nearest town starts to encroach on their forest hideaway, he gets a taste of family life once again, but with a dragon in the midst things get pretty complicated before the film comes to an end.
Oakes Fegely makes for a good new feral interpretation of Pete, combining both the wild nature of the role with great childish innocence. He’s supported by a strong cast with Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World) putting in another good performance as Grace Meecham, the forest ranger that finds Pete. Wes Bentley works well as her husband, Jack, a lumber mill owner, and Karl Urban (Star Trek Beyond) manages to find yet another shade of gruff as Jack’s brother Gavin. There’s even a little old world stability from Robert Redford as Grace’s dragon spotting dad.
The CGI that has gone into creating Elliot is some of the best we’ve seen in recent years and from the very first moment his big green snout appears on the screen you’re totally hooked. It makes for a convincing “real-life” version of the cartoon dragon of yore with a lot in common with a friendly dog in terms of its movement on the ground. He becomes even more impressive when he takes to the sky, which starts out tentative at the beginning, but soon becomes soaring and incredible.
Pete’s Dragon (2016) is in all fairness a pretty original remake, as remakes go, with a clever departure from its namesake. It’s a good family DVD that will get a fair amount of home viewing over the years, if for nothing else but to marvel at Elliot some more. It also tackles some big issues in a clever and subtle way, covering everything from the environment and the impact of industry to greed, friendship and the importance of family, which is pretty commendable.
Pete’s Dragon (2016) DVD review: 4.4/5