Review: Pete's Dragon
It certainly took long enough but this week’s theatrical new releases bring us the best films of the summer (thus far) – Sausage Party and Pete’s Dragon. Both films (one kid friendly and one far less so) espouse their socio-political statements in easily digestible, easily marketable and, most importantly, easily enjoyable stories for the masses.
At its heart (and it has a huge one) Pete’s Dragon is about nurturing the environment and the evolving conventions of the family unit. The fact that these messages are wrapped up in a poignant story about a boy and his lovable guardian angel who happens to be a towering green dragon, makes this film the most surprisingly enjoyable film of the summer as well.
Very loosely based on the goofy 1977 musical of the same name, the film opens with 5 year old precocious tyke Pete (Oakes Fegley) embarking on a road trip “adventure” with his wholesome parents. Moments later Mom and Dad are brutally killed Disney style (aka off screen and with no blood wounds) in a car crash, leaving trauma-worn Pete alone in the depths of the forest with nothing but his book about a friendly pet named Elliot. He is rescued by the forest dwelling, sweet natured dragon who he dubs Elliot, who, as luck and pronounced foreshadowing would have it, has the transformative ability to turn invisible wherever danger lurks.
Fast forward six years and Pete is joyously living the idyllic Mowgli/Tarzan life in the forest with his beloved Elliot. (As a quick side note, where are all the think pieces about the orphans living in the forest/please save the environment films all being re-imagined and released in the same year? We’d even count Into the Forest as part of this newly popular sub-genre that must be making Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore, and Pete’s Dragon star Robert Redford ever so pleased). Their lives are turned upside down when Pete is discovered in the woods by the equally precocious, young Natalie (Oona Laurence), step-daughter to matronly forest ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) and daughter to Jack (Wes Bentley). Soon enough Jack’s brother Gavin (Karl Urban, happily chewing the scenery) and his tree-cutting construction crew have their metaphorical pitchforks out and are on a malicious rampage to expose and capture poor Elliot. Rest assured, love and magical realism goodness prevails in the end.
That’s just it, Pete’s Dragon is simply magical and the must see film of the summer.