There are quite a few Disney classics that I apparently missed out on. 1977’s Pete’s Dragon was one of them. My wife said it was a really good movie, so I was hoping that this reboot would follow suit.
After seeing Pete’s Dragon of 2016, my favorite thing about the movie is that aside from a few things, this movie really doesn’t have anything horrible in it. There is some obligatory cheesiness that comes with it being a kid’s movie, but honestly, there really isn’t anything horrendously obnoxious about it.
There are also some touches of comedic timing in the movie. Instead of relying on excruciatingly obvious jokes through dialogue, the humor is actually done mainly through action and cinematography.
My least favorite thing about the movie is that aside from a few things, this movie really doesn’t have anything special in it.
There’s not a single character that is worth remembering. Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley, they all play characters that seem promising in the first half of the movie, and then the script never really does anything with them. Every single line of dialogue or action from any of them never really flourishes into a legitimate character trait. They’re all just a bunch of good guys with generic motivations.
As for Karl Urban, the only character that can be considered somewhat of an antagonist, his character goes from generic at best to cheesily villanous at worst. As soon as his character is introduced, and they reveal that he’s a lumberjack who cuts down trees that he’s not supposed to, I was afraid that this would devolve into an in-your-face environmental “save-the-trees” message. And although I was thankful that it did not go that route, I almost wish they did because they end up not giving him any compelling motivation for what he does at all.
As for the child actor, he really doesn’t do a terrible job, but the movie waters him down so much that he becomes absolutely uninteresting. Instead of some child who has a massive survival instinct accompanied with extreme social issues, his personality seems more akin to a slightly socially awkward kid who doesn’t know how to properly eat PB&J. This isn’t something that’s a detractor to the movie, but it is also something that’s not exceptional either.
The dragon’s design is a bit cartoonish, but considering the source material, I somewhat expected it to be like that. He also suffers from being unexceptional.
There’s this thing that a lot of animators do in ALOT of movies where they want to make an animal seem really cute and humorous: they make him act like a dog.
This happens in Frozen (with the reindeer) and in Tangled (with the horse) just to name a few. As soon as Elliot the dragon started sniffing the ground like he was tracking scents and then started chasing his tail, I realized that they decided to take this route with Pete’s Dragon. Again, not something that’s necessarily a bad thing (even though it is kind of lazy), but it’s also not interesting.
This movie really made me appreciate The Jungle Book and all of the attention to detail it had. Though I cannot really say that Mowgli was an amazing character, there were those fine details that helped me believe that he spent his life isolated from humanity in a slightly unforgiving jungle. And the animals (though cartoony and could speak English) all not only had character but somewhat believable animalistic instincts as well.
With Pete’s Dragon, you’re kind of just suppose to accept that this kid has been stuck in the forest for six years without seeing any sort of real character develop from him being in the forest aside from the fact that he has long hair and can climb well. And you’re supposed to accept this mythical dragon being a force to be reckoned with even though he’s shockingly held back and acts more like a golden retriever with wings.
But in all honesty, Pete’s dragon is not a bad movie; it is just a forgettable one. The dialogue, the acting, and the story are all so generic and unexciting, but it does have its moments of light-heartedness and adventure. If you’re thinking of bringing your kids to this one, do so; all the kids in the theatre seemed to enjoy this movie enough to shut up and not ruin the movie. But everything in the movie is so surface level that it does not compel anyone else besides children to latch onto the screen.