Live-action remake of 1977 animated film — about an orphan boy and his dragon — is sure to please the kids. Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.
Sometimes, four heads are better than one. For the screening of “Pete’s Dragon,” I borrowed three visiting friends (ages 10-12), took out a bank loan for popcorn and candy, and settled in for some preshow conversation. Among the topics: what size wedgie you would get if you jumped off a cliff onto a flying dragon (the consensus: big); whether dragons have fur or scales (we thought scales, but agreed that fur would be easier to hold on to in flight); and how we all felt about Marvel Comics movies (we like them, particularly the 10-year-old-boy contingent among us).
Was this conversation more interesting than “Pete’s Dragon,” once it began? I thought so. But the movie, a live-action remake of the 1977 animated film about an orphan boy and his dragon, isn’t aimed at the likes of me, and my mini-focus group — Fiona, Joe and Iris — was rapt. After a sad little prologue involving a fatal car accident that leaves a little boy orphaned, the movie fast-forwards six years to find that boy, Pete (Oakes Fegley), now feral and living in a fictional Oregon forest with his devoted dragon friend Elliott. Their idyll is interrupted by a kind forest ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard), whose father (a folksy Robert Redford) has long told tales of a magic dragon in the forest. Pete, reluctantly, returns to civilization — but will Elliott be able to follow him?
For me, a grown-up spoiled by Pixar, “Pete’s Dragon” seemed sweet but slow and a little bland. My guests, entranced by the friendly dragon and the film’s 3D depictions of flight, thought otherwise. Fiona thought Elliott fit beautifully into the Disney tradition of creating endearing animals that young audiences fall in love with, like Simba in “The Lion King.” Iris uttered an emphatic “I LOVED IT,” and Joe, a man of few words, said only, “I’m glad I didn’t cry.” (Yes, there are plenty of sad bits.) Nobody agreed with me that Elliott looks sort of like a dragon-flavored Shrek, and all of us wondered why Pete didn’t get a haircut immediately upon leaving the forest. That’s three thumbs up and one so-so, so I’m going with a three-star rating. I know when I’m outnumbered.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Pete’s Dragon,’ with Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Directed by David Lowery, from a screenplay by Lowery and Toby Halbrooks, based on the 1977 “Pete’s Dragon” screenplay by Malcolm Marmorstein. 95 minutes. Rated PG for action, peril and brief language. Several theaters.