“Pete’s Dragon” is much more than another remake of a Disney classic. It’s an incredible reimagining of the story and a terrific upgrade on the 1977 original.
After “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book,” Disney is once again three for three with its live-action treatments.
This remake follows the outline of the original, tellng the story of a young orphan named Pete whose parents have died in a car accident. He lives in the woods and befriends a dragon named Elliott who remains invisible to everyone except Pete. When Pete (Oakes Fegley) is 11, he discovers a group of lumberjacks and park rangers close to where he and Elliott live. He’s soon spotted by a female park ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard).
Grace wants to bring Pete home to her and her family. Wes Bentley plays her husband, Jack, and they have a young daughter, Natalie (Oona Lawrence). Robert Redford gives a soothing and effective supporting performance as Grace’s father.
Karl Urban plays Jack’s brother and a hunter in a party operating in the area where Pete and Elliott live. It isn’t long before Urban and his party see Elliott face to face and he immediately sees a chance at becoming rich and famous by capturing the dragon.
“Pete’s Dragon” proves to be not just another Disney remake, but a great-looking movie where the special effects don’t upstage the actors, but it makes them inhabit the world very easily. Instead of becoming a novelty, the character of Elliott is a fully-fleshed, fully-realized, three-dimensional character and any given scene is totally convincing and we forget we’re looking at wonderfully-rendered CG.
This movie has a lot of heart and soul and when it does intentionally pull for the heartstrings, it certainly earns its moments. It’s bittersweet without being manipulative and heartfelt without becoming cloying.
“Pete’s Dragon” isn’t worthy of comparison to the original. I think it is better. Much better.
Rated PG for action, peril, and brief language.
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.