Pete’s Dragon Review
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Decades of Disney fans still have fond childhood memories of 1977’s Pete’s Dragon, which mixed live action and animation to follow the adventures of a boy and his magical friend. Now Disney takes the idea behind the beloved classic and mixes live action and eye-catching CGI for an updated—but still old-fashioned—remake.

The new Pete’s Dragon tells the story of orphaned boy Pete (Oakes Fegley), who’s spent the last six years living in the forest with best friend, Elliot—a big, furry, green dragon who’s been the thing of legends in the town of Millhaven for decades. As workers begin to clear his beloved forest, Pete is discovered by a little girl named Natalie (Oona Laurence) and a forest ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). And while Grace tries to help Pete, others set out into the forest to capture his sad and lonely magical friend.

If you’re expecting a familiar story from the new Pete’s Dragon, you might be a bit perplexed. There are no lovably crazy old drunks or abusive adoptive families. Instead, the updated version tells its own story—one that’s charming and old-fashioned yet still surprisingly melancholy.

From the opening scene, when adorable little Pete loses his parents in a car accident and ventures off into the woods, Pete’s Dragon is tinged with sadness. Pete is a boy who loses everything, only to find a new home with a strangely shaggy winged creature. Then, years later, he’s taken into town, where he makes new friends while being taken away from the only friend he’s known for most of his life. And though it’s cute and sweet, it’s also a little depressing.

At the same time, though, there’s also something undeniably, lovably classic about this remake. As in another recent family-friendly release, Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, this film’s retro style shows not just in the period touches but also in the film’s overall tone. It’s simple and laid-back, taking time to settle into the story while embracing the innocence and lightheartedness of a boy just spending time playing with his best friend. It even has some of the quirky, overplayed slapstick silliness of classic family films. Once again, that means that some of today’s audiences might find it strange and sleepy. It also means that there’s not a lot of depth and development to the story. But that’s okay. What it lacks in action and sophisticated humor, it makes up in heart and charm.

Pete’s Dragon is another classic-style family film—the kind that will remind you of a more innocent time, before wild and crazy kids’ movies. It’s sweet and imaginative and sad—and sometimes a little silly, too. If you still love the original, you’ll appreciate the folksy appeal of the remake.

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