Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pete's Dragon

Time for some catch-up reviews. A live-action version of Pete's Dragon was never something I was dying to see, and not being a huge fan of the original, I wasn't really even planning on seeing this in theaters. However, at the behest of my lovely wife, we decided to go see this film at our local theater a couple of weeks after it opened (yeah, it's been a while). The reviews were generally favorable, and from what I remembered of the film, it seemed like it would be an enjoyable enough time. To put it more bluntly, I wasn't expecting much from this film, and I would say that it pretty much met my expectations.

Pete's family is moving to a new town, but on the way they swerve off the road to avoid hitting a deer and Pete wanders off into the nearby forest. There he is confronted with a pack of angry wolves, who only back off once the massive fur-covered dragon appears behind the frightened boy. Time goes by, and only due to the deforestation of the area, does Pete get exposed to civilization once more. The family that finds him as a girl his age, and he starts to feel more and more at home in his natural habitat. Unfortunately, there are other people that may only be interested in exploiting his magical winged friend...

I'm not going to prolong this review, as I've got a lot to catch up on, but honestly there isn't a whole lot to talk about here anyway. Pete's Dragon is a pretty innocuous and reasonably enjoyable experience. It's clearly designed and targeted for a younger demographic, but it's so innocent and heartfelt that it's hard to dislike anything that goes on in this film. Technically, it's not what I would consider groundbreaking (the obvious and unnecessary green screen shots were borderline laughable at times), and I question the decision to make the dragon furry instead of scaly. However, given that he originates from the North, it makes sense that he would need some protection from the cold.

The acting is passable, with a few cringe-worthy moments, but nothing that would take younger audiences out of the movie. As for Elliot himself, he's cute in a certain sense, but I never really connected with him all that much. Before you go accusing me of being jaded and cynical, I will readily admit that I shed a few tears over the animated fish in Finding Dory earlier this year. It doesn't seem like it would be that hard to endear the audience to a magical dragon, and I feel it just wasn't quite there with Pete's Dragon.

So is this a bad movie? No. Why did I give it two and half stars if I didn't "dislike" it, per se? It was just such a safe movie that brought nothing to the table that I haven't seen over two decades ago in Free Willy, let alone this movie's far superior counterparts like this year's The Jungle Book. If you have younger kids, go ahead and rent this one, but don't bother going to a dollar theater. I didn't regret the time I spent seeing it, but I doubt I'll ever watch it again.

PETE'S DRAGON is rated PG for action, peril, and brief language