Friday, August 12, 2016

Movie Review: PETE'S DRAGON

Our family had the opportunity to see an advance screening of Disney's PETE'S DRAGON before its August 12th opening weekend and we all really enjoyed the show.  My daughter specifically was delighted by PETE'S DRAGON sitting on the edge of her seat through the whole movie.  When my wife suggested she sit back in her seat my 7 year old exclaimed "I can't it's too exciting!"

This movie is a re-imagining of the 1977 family film that combined Disney's hallmark animation with live action sequences that were similar to other campy movies of the time like The Apple Dumpling Gang and Herbie the Love Bug.  The original movie featured musical singing and dancing routines, slap stick humor, and a cartoonish dragon with purple hair and wings.  While the new adaption features an orphaned boy named Pete who is befriended and protected by a dragon he names Elliot that is about all the similarities between the two movies as 2016's PETE'S DRAGON really is its own stand alone tale.  While the original film is known for outlandish characters and musical numbers, the new movie stands out as a drama that tells a story which absorbs audiences into it through well developed characters, impressive stunts, stunning natural backdrops, and wonderful special effects.  It also features some comedic moments that had the whole theater laughing, mostly involving the reactions by people in the movie the first time they get their eyes on Elliot.

I have to give a lot of credit to the Disney special effects team who created Elliot as they had a difficult balancing act of attempting to make Elliot into a "realistic" dragon that also wouldn't be scary for most children as this is meant to be a family friendly film.  They did an extraordinary job bring to life on the screen a magical creature that can be viewed both as fierce and intimidating but also as cuddly and affectionate.  The dragon has the look of a giant green labrador retriever with wings providing a character that has a warm appearance but also should have people wary of its bite -- or in this case breathing fire!  As a kid I liked Pete's Dragon so much that Elliot was my Halloween costume one year, so as a parent enjoying the new movie with my kids I appreciated that it paid homage to the original beloved character by preserving the dragon's snaggletooth and ability to turn invisible.  While the stories aren't connected it was nice to see a few elements of the 1977 movie incorporated into the 2016 version in Elliot's appearance...and I have to say I don't miss the purple hair.  Disney really did an impressive job of creating Elliot for PETE'S DRAGON and while watching the movie you don't view it as a special effect but rather see it as a character in the movie on par with the human actors.

Pete's Dragon 1977
 In PETE'S DRAGON, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children for years with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliot. And from Pete’s descriptions, Elliot seems remarkably similar to the dragon from Mr. Meacham’s stories. With the help of Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill, Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon.

PETE'S DRAGON is rated PG for action, peril and brief language.  In my opinion this rating is primarily for three scenes.  The movie starts off with an accident which leaves Pete alone in the woods being stalked by some very vicious looking wolves that appear very ready to eat him.  Another sequence has men with rifles shooting at Elliot.  There is also a scene where Elliot attacks several characters by breathing fire at them putting them at risk of being killed.  The film really is suitable for children of any age, but as a parent if you have a child who may be sensitive to intense situations or easily scared these scenes are what you should really be aware of before he or she sees the movie.  For the most part though this is a great movie for a family outing filled with some great messages for kids such as valuing family and wildlife.

Please enjoy these free downloadable PETE'S DRAGON activity sheets and for more information about the movie visit

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