Pete’s Dragon Review!

Jondee here at Millhaven,

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The original Pete’s Dragon took place in the early part of the 20th century in Passamaquoddy, somewhere in the northeast of the country. The recent Pete’s Dragon discards the setting, the characters; Lena, Lampie, and Dr. Terminus, the songs, basically everything except Pete and his dragon. The heart of the story is there, but this film focuses on family and magic. Next, I have to address the look of the dragon, I’ve heard criticism that dragons can’t be furry or doglike. This is ignorance of what is a dragon, early dragons were less pure reptiles than combinations of eagle, lion, and other beasties, if you are still confused I would like to introduce you to a luck dragon named Falkor. David Lowery as director and co-writer has produced a Disney story that is about finding a family and bravery and wonder. It opens with a family on the road with young Pete (Levi Alexander) reading the book about a lost puppy, Elliot Gets Lost, for his parents (Gareth Reeves and Esmee Myers). His father swerves to avoid a deer and we get a terrifying spin in the car with Pete. He wakens to find himself alone and carries his book. Pete hears howling by wolves and is surrounded by a hungry pack. Something drives them off. Pete fears that the dragon will eat him, but the puppy eyes and furry snout of the dragon makes them best friends and they fly off.

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Six years later, we get the town of Millhaven, this was filmed in Tapanui, New Zealand, but looks like the American northwest. It is said to be Oregon, but there is no specific location. Pete (Oakes Fegley) is there, he has tattered remains of his backpack tied around his waist. This is the second wild boy film for Disney, after Jungle Book, and this is a different kind of fun. Fegley is nice in his feral gestures and surprise at the modern world. He runs off to fly with Elliot (his grunts and mews are voiced by John Kassir). Another narrator enters, this time it’s Robert Redford’s character, Beecham, who tells his story of meeting the dragon to some kids. His daughter, Grace (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) says he is just telling stories. The theme of the movie is there at the beginning to not just see things on the surface level, the magic is behind it. Grace is busy as a park ranger out there to protect the forest and everything in it. She is checking on trees marked for removal by a saw mill, one has an owl, and she uses another marker to make the tree safe. Pete is curious about seeing Grace and steals her compass. Grace’s boyfriend, Jack played by Wes Bentley, owns the sawmill. His brother, Gavin (Karl Urban, also in Star Trek: Beyond), is cutting down the forests, he has ambition since it is his brother running the mill. Jack’s daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence who stars in Bad Moms) intrigues Pete and she follows him. Grace sees her compass around his neck and Gavin trying to hold onto it accidentally knocks Pete out. Gavin runs into Elliot trying to take away Pete’s book and vows to hunt it down. There’s a bit of an environmental message, nothing strong, and also an animal preservation message. If you care about animals, this will be powerful for you. It is great that special effects creates such a warm character that like Pete is left behind and needs to find his family. The touches of humor had me laughing, it is not as silly as the first film, but works in the story. Four Compasses out of Five!

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