“Pete’s Dragon” (2016) Review

This marks the 9th time I have seen the Disney logo on the big screen in 2016 (yes, I am counting Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War).  Remember when they barely had the budget to release one animated movie every 5 years?  I don’t think they will ever be in a financial crisis again.  Considering that they have Star Wars movies planned for every year, their Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to rake in the box office gold, and that The Jungle Book remake did unpredictably well, Disney (aka Walt Disney Pictures) is most likely the biggest film company on the planet as of 2016.  I say this because Pete’s Dragon (2016) is a film that does not live up to that company.

Pete’s Dragon is directed by David Lowery and written by David Lowery and Toby Halbrooks.  Stars-Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, and Robert Redford.  Premise-A young boy (Pete) loses his parents in a car crash but soon finds love in the form of a big friendly dragon (Elliot).  When curious citizens find Pete in the forest, what will happen?

The original Pete’s Dragon (1977) is charming but quite flawed (it was a chore to watch).  Some of the actors (particularly Mickey Rooney) were pretty entertaining, but the musical numbers were too long, the villains were stereotype clichés, and the pace was murderously molasses-like.  But hey, don’t let me tell you!  Let Rotten Tomatoes’ critics consensus on the film inform you that Pete’s Dragon is “Boring and slow…”  I will give it this though, the animation (done by the great Don Bluth), art decoration, and score are top notch.  Just like The BFG, I believed that a remake would be a decent idea; and just like The BFG, the remake ended up being slightly better but not that good.

Do not go into this movie with the mindset that you are going to get something like The Jungle Book remake.  The only things that are CGI are Elliot and a few random animals.   The CGI is impressive.  The work on Elliot’s eyes is truly beautiful.  Also, Fegley does a convincing enough job.  The best part of the movie is the first 5 minutes.  You see what happens to Pete’s parents, and how he came across Elliot.  Those five minutes are light on dialogue, very well-shot, and emotionally compelling.  Sadly, since that is literally the first five minutes of a 100 minute film, there will be a lot of garbage to follow.

While this movie is not as slow as its predecessor (mostly due to forgoing the musical numbers), it still drags on many times.  There are a few scenes that were specifically filmed for the 3D audience, and there are a few talking scenes that take forever to end.  It doesn’t help that the rest of the cast is bland.  Granted, Karl Urban (who is awesome in everything) emotes enough, but the personality of the cast in the 1977 film is much better than this one.  What is worse is the incredibly clichéd writing.

Some critics are calling this movie very heartfelt, but I don’t see the characters or emotional connections to back that up.  Pete doesn’t have much of a personality, they try (and fail) to make him like Tarzan, the supporting cast are either one-note tropes or just forgettable, and the villain (played by Urban) is one of the most copy-pasted villains of the year.  The only interesting character is Elliot, and that’s because you want to know where the heck he came from.  In the 1977 movie, he says that he goes to people who need him, in this version, you will get a different answer at the very end.  I am glad that they changed up a lot of the plot from the original movie (it’s more like Tarzan 1999 or The Jungle Book 1967 than Pete’s Dragon), but I am not happy about the fact that most of their “new” changes are clichés.  I am very close to calling this movie the most predicable film of 2016 so far.

I know this review is short, but this movie is just above-average/decent, nothing special.  Apparently the senior citizen crowd love this movie (as evident by the audience reaction in my theater), but I’ll let you decide if you want to spend your time/money on it.  Pete’s Dragon (2016) gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B-.

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