Movie Review

Pete's Dragon

Some secrets are too big to keep.
Pete's Dragon Movie Poster

US Release Date: 08-12-2016

Directed by: David Lowery


  • Bryce Dallas Howard
  • Grace
  • Robert Redford
  • Meacham
  • Oakes Fegley
  • Pete
  • Oona Laurence
  • Natalie
  • Wes Bentley
  • Jack
  • Karl Urban
  • Gavin
  • Isiah Whitlock Jr.
  • Sheriff Gene Dentler
  • Marcus Henderson
  • Woodrow
  • Aaron Jackson
  • Abner
  • Phil Grieve
  • Bobby
  • Steve Barr
  • Deputy Smalls
  • Keagan Carr Fransch
  • Doctor Marquez
  • Jade Valour
  • Nurse Merriwether
  • Augustine Frizzell
  • Mrs. Swanberg
  • Francis Biggs
  • Mr. Swanberg
Reviewed on: September 29th, 2016
Oakes Fegley in Pete's Dragon

Oakes Fegley in Pete's Dragon

Although the director, David Lowery, referred to this as a reinvention, it is, in fact, a remake of the 1977 Disney film Pete's Dragon. He even makes a huge nod to the original film by having this version possibly take place sometime around 1977. The trucks and vehicles are from decades ago. No one in the film has a cell phone. There is not a computer in sight and someone even plays music on a vinyl record.

In the original, Pete was a child who ran away from an unhappy foster home. Here, Pete survives a car crash that takes the life of his parents. It happened in the forest of the great north west, although this was filmed in New Zealand. Pete finds himself alone in the wild until a furry green dragon, Pete names Elliot, decides to save him and become his only companion. Skip some six years and Pete is now Mowgli, running around the wild in tattered clothes and long unruly hair.

Fortunately for Pete, man encroaches into the woods in the name of lumber, getting close to the tree/cave that Pete and Elliott share. Also in his woods is Grace, a park ranger, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, whose father, played by an old enough to be her grandfather Robert Redford, likes to tell neighborhood children of the time he once came across a green dragon in the forest. Grace is dating the lumber company foreman, who is conveniently a single father to a girl about the same age as Pete.

Grace discovers Pete after he follows her and he soon finds himself in a hospital surrounded by people and objects he does not know or understand. Elliot wakes to find Pete missing and goes in search. While Pete starts to assimilate into the human world, some lumberjacks discover Elliot and decide to hunt him down. Karl Urban plays the leader of the villains, eager to capture Elliot for profit. He is supposed to be the bad guy, after all, he cuts down trees and hunts. Although he is truly intended to be the film's heavy, I was rooting him on. This is an actual dragon. What does it eat? The movie conveniently leaves that piece of information out.

Only near the end of the film, when Elliot demonstrates his real power, do we see the destruction it can cause. Through most of the film, Elliott is little more than a large green dog that flies. He chases his own tale. He sneezes gross amounts of snot. He lies next to Pete when they sleep. Lowery explained he made Elliot furry because who would want to hug a scaly dragon. Okay, but putting fur on a dragon is like putting scales on a dog. Eeeeuw.

The real flaw of the film is that we never feel the connection between Pete and Elliot in the sense that I never understood why Elliot chose to save him and then stick around for years as he grew up. Had Pete some how helped Elliot, as in How to Train Your Dragon, I would have bought the arrangement as payback. Here it never makes sense, especially when we see the final scene. Lowery likewise never makes the human characters connect. The love story is almost pointless as they never generate any romance to speak of. Redford's scene of telling the children his dragon story was done with Redford in one shot and then the children in another. Only for a second do they share the screen. Was Redford put off by acting with the kids?

The entire film has a sweet and innocent tone but where Lowery succeeds is with the scenes in the woods. He truly makes the forest seem like a magical, and very inviting, realm. It becomes not only a character within the movie but the most interesting one. It is sometimes scary, other times playful but always a fascinating place to be. To bad he could not do the same for the actual characters.