Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Good acting and effects; final act
Cons: Very slow first two acts
The Bottom Line:
Boy and his dragon
Story moves very slowly
Easily Skippable Remake
I seem to be one of the exceptions around, but I don’t necessarily mind a remake. Yes, you have to go in with the right expectations, but if you do that, I quite often find the results to be fun. So it was with guarded optimism that I finally sat down to watch last year’s remake of Pete’s Dragon. Sadly, in this case, I was disappointed.
The movie tells the story of Pete (Oakes Fegley). At a young age, he was orphaned in a car accident and lost in the woods where he finds a dragon who helps him survive. He might have stayed in the woods forever if not for an encounter with Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). Grace is a forest ranger who is trying to stop some logging from happening in the area.
Grace is surprised to find Pete since she thought she knew everything that was in the woods. She is even more surprised to hear that Pete has survived all these years thanks to a dragon. However, Pete’s description matches a story that Grace’s father (Robert Redford) tells. Is there really something out there?
Okay, let me start by saying I am a huge fan of the original movie. Yes, it is filled with 70’s cheese and the animated dragon doesn’t fit in super well with the rest of the movies. Yet, I watched it enough times as a kid that I just love it. The songs are fun, and it gets me smiling.
If you are like me, you have to forget everything from that movie. Heck, I kept looking for them to make any nod or reference to the original film. They had several good times to slip in a fun reference without interrupting the new story they are creating, but they pass them all up. Really, if they hadn’t used the names Pete and Elliot, they could have called this movie something else and we never would have known better.
However, even viewing this as a standalone movie it isn’t that good. The first two thirds of the story are very slow. We know where things are going to go, and we just have to wait for the movie to tell us that part of the story. In fact, I was watching this with some friends and their four kids, and the kids were bored. I’ve often said I don’t mind predictable stories if I am having fun along the way, but that wasn’t the case here. The obvious environmental message didn’t help at all, either.
Things do pick up when we hit the final act of the movie, and the kids got engrossed in the movie at that point as well. I even felt some emotion near the end of the film. But it was so slow getting there that I barely cared.
Now I’m not faulting the actors. With Robert Redford in the cast, you know the caliber of acting is going to great, and you wouldn’t be disappointed at all. Everyone makes even the most obvious moments come to life.
Meanwhile, the special effects are outstanding. No hokey dragon here. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was real.
There are a couple of moments that might frighten some children, so if your child is especially sensitive, you might want to preview it before you let them watch it. Most kids should be fine, however.
Ultimately, this remake of Pete’s Dragon doesn’t work on its own, and if you have found memories of the original, you really won’t like it. It’s not bad, but it’s really not good either. Personally, I’ll be sticking with the original in this case.