August 13, 2016 -- This reboot of Pete's Dragon (the original film, released in 1977, also by Disney studios, is, like the reboot, a mix of animation and live action) is an invitation to embrace the wonder of life and to keep an open mind about the possibility of such things as dragons.
This is a heartwarming film, like many Disney films about the relationships between people and anthropomorphic animals. Four year old Pete (played by Oakes Fegley of “Fort Bliss”) on a trip with his parents, survives a car crash and wanders off into the Pacific Northwest woods, where he is threatened by wolves, but is saved by a friendly dragon. The two become fast friends and spend the next six years together.
Pete names the dragon Elliot after his favorite character in a book. One day, loggers and forest rangers encroach on the area where Pete and Elliot live. Pete is spotted by Natalie (Oona Laurence of “Southpaw”) a young girl who is accompanying a forest ranger, Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard of “Jurassic World”).
When Pete is taken out of the forest into the nearby town of Millhaven, Elliot goes into town looking for Pete. Elliot has the ability to make himself invisible, so he can travel around undetected, but he has been seen before by a few people, including Grace's father (played by Robert Redford). The dragon has become a local legend, the “Millhaven dragon.” When Natalie's uncle Gavin (Karl Urban of “Star Trek Beyond”) sees the dragon, he decides to capture it and use the creature like a circus animal to make money.
This story is told simply with little explanatory dialog. There is no real explanation of what Elliot and Pete have been living on all those years in the woods. Rather than feign realism, the story embraces fantasy. The dragon seems to have a fairly high level of intelligence and an understanding of human relationships, and some sense of morality. The dragon, which appears to be mammalian, rather than reptilian, has almost human-like hands and green fur. He is a fairly cuddly dragon, but he is also very large and can breathe fire.
This film packs an emotional punch. It is well acted and directed. There is action and there is spectacle, but it doesn't overwhelm the story, which is essentially about human relationships, friendships and love. While the story itself isn't believable, the characters certainly are, and that is the strength of this film. It rates a B.
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