The 2016 version of “Pete’s Dragon” is not just another remake; it is creative proof that wholesome family entertainment can be well-made and enjoyable for audiences of all ages.
Loosely based on Malcolm Marmorstein’s 1977 animated live-action musical film of the same name, “Pete’s Dragon” follows a young orphaned boy named Pete (played by Oakes Fegley) and his caretaker and “pet” dragon, Elliot (voiced by John Kassir). The film starts off with Pete reading his favourite storybook titled “Elliot Gets Lost” before losing both of his parents in an unfortunate car crash in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Scared and alone, Pete meets a kind dragon with green, grassy fur.
6 years later, Pete is found by park ranger Grace (played by Bryce Dallas Howard); Grace’s fiancé and owner of a lumber mill company Jack (played by Wes Bentley); Jack’s daughter Natalie (played by Oona Laurence); as well as Jack’s brother and hunter Gavin (played by Karl Urban). His life will never be the same again.
Elliot, named after the lost puppy in Pete’s storybook, is one of the most lovable dragons we’ve seen since Toothless from Dreamwork’s hit animation, “How To Train Your Dragon”. On the outside, he’s furry and mean-looking; but on the inside, he’s just a mischievous puppy.
From how he sniffs curiously when he sees something new to how he gets easily distracted by butterflies, Elliot is every kids’ dream pet. The canine traits of the clumsy dragon is no coincidence as to why he is named after a fictional puppy. According to director David Lowery, “You want it to be a giant puppy dog”.
After all, the film begins with Pete saying, “This is the story of a puppy called Elliott”.
Great child actors are always hard to find. Aside from the well-developed CGI dragon, 10-year-old Oakes Fegley’s acting left us in awe. Not only did he handle his emotional parts as well as a professional, but he also impressed us with his fluency of movements when he interacts with Elliot, who was only added after filming was done. It’s not easy pretending to talk to a non-existing dragon, let alone play with it.
His co-star, 14-year-old Oona Laurence also did well in bringing out Natalie’s boyish charms and compassion towards her loved ones.
The film’s adult actors are equally as impressive as Oakes and Oona, especially Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford, who plays Grace’s father, Mr. Meacham. Though they do not have much screen time together, they are arguably the best father-daughter duo we’ve seen in a while. The chemistry between the 2 characters complement each other very well – Mr. Meacham is imaginative and passionate while Grace is logical and loving.
Unlike her “Jurassic World” counterpart, Bryce’s new character does not have any complicated lines or over-the-top clothing, but we won’t be able to forget her subtle acting and affectionate gazes anytime soon.
“Pete’s Dragon” also addresses other themes aside from Pete and Elliot’s beautiful friendship. The film is heavily centred around environmental issues such as excessive logging, forest preservation, and wildlife conservation. For instance, when the money-driven Gavin, who doesn’t really care about Mother Nature, hunts down Elliot simply because he thinks that “people would travel thousands of miles to see a dragon”, it’s as though Disney is spreading the awareness of poaching. In this case, Gavin represents unethical poachers while Elliot represents endangered animals.
But then again, just like most Disney films, you won’t be able to dislike him entirely because he’ll eventually learn that “love prevails all”.
Primarily filmed in New Zealand, we think that the movie has successfully captured the beauty of the forest of the Pacific Northwest and the small-town charm of Millhaven, a fictional suburban area. The cinematography in the woods, done by Bojan Bazelli, invoked a cool, breezey feeling for the audience.
Last but not least, the film’s scores were composed by Daniel Hart and our favourite one is undoubtedly the end credit track. After a little digging, we found out that the folk-infused song, titled “Something Wild”, was played by popular YouTube violinist, Lindsey Stirling! What a surprise :)
You can watch the music video for the original track below:
Slated to hit Malaysian cinemas on 1st September 2016, “Pete’s Dragon” also stars Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Sheriff Dentler, Jim McLarty as Ranger Wentworth, and Ian Harcourt as Deputy West.