Film: “Pete’s Dragon”; Director: David Lowery; Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban; Rating: **1/2
Despite being designed as a live action, fantasy adventure drama, Director David Lowery’s “Pete’s Dragon” is a leaden, listless and predictable reboot of Disney’s 1977 release of the same name. But nevertheless, it has its charming cinematic moments that would appeal to its young audience.
It tells the tale of an orphan boy, Pete who finds a home with a mysterious dragon. The narration begins with 5 year old Pete travelling with his parents on an adventure trip, when all of a sudden their car overturns, killing his parents instantly. Pete survives the crash and is soon rescued by a green furry dragon with yellow eyes and huge wings. He names the dragon, “Elliotta after a dog from one of his favourite story books.
Over a period of six years they bond like soul-mates. Pete, like Tarzan grows up as a feral child, with Elliott nurturing him at every step. Till one fine day a crew of lumberjacks happen to chance upon their existence, upheave Pete from his familiar terrain and transport him to the nearest town.
What follows, is an adventure-laden trope of a pining dragon and the desperate Pete trying to reunite, with an exciting town-folk ridiculing the legend of dragons, in the back-drop.
Although the film has a very clear line of entertaining, it never crosses the line of an over-promise. The many life lessons delivered throughout the film are simple and realistic. The emotional undertone to the adventure is about discovery and looking further, than what meets the eye.
Except for Elliott’s mid-air somersaults or him disappearing inexplicably, there is not much action happening in the story and hence the pace drags. But then, Director David Lowery’s script ploughs on the screenplay rather than on the plot of the adventure. The close-ups, showing how Elliott snuggles Pete and the way Pete interacts with Elliott, are very appealing, to say the least.
But, what makes this account very believable, is how Oakes Fegley, the child, who essays Pete portrays his character. With an impressive performance he charms you. He is aptly supported by; Oona Laurence as Natalie, the young daughter of Jack the site foreman, played by Wes Bentley, Bryce Dallas Howard as Jack’s girlfriend Grace and Robert Redford as Grace’s father.
Karl Urban stands out as Gavin, Jack’s brother. He is far too over the top in his cliched antagonistic role. But fortunately for him, his role is too short-lived to create an impact in an otherwise drab narrative.
Visually, unlike other Disney films, this film is not colourful. Elliott too as a dragon is unconventional and the screen is constantly filled with all shades of grey making the film look dull and gloomy.
Overall, “Pete’s Dragon” doesn’t try to explain the magic of the dragons, but it does make sure that viewers will vouch that the magic is real.