Pete’s Dragon

Based on the Disney animated movie of the same name released in 1977, Pete’s Dragon follows in the recent succession of Disney remaking classic animated movies into well-crafted live action films. The plot revolves around Pete who loses his parents in a car accident and is left alone in the forested wilderness where he survives with the help of a friendly dragon. The film takes place six years after the opening scene when Pete and eventually the dragon named Elliot are discovered by a crew of lumberjacks and a local park ranger played by Bryce Howard Dallas. Pete, portrayed by the terrific young actor Oakes Fegley, must figure out a way to live in civilization and away from the only companion that he has ever really known, a large furry green dragon that everyone believes is a figment of his imagination. The only true believer is the scruffy old outdoorsman played by Robert Redford who has been claiming for years that he saw a dragon in the woods. When Elliot is finally discovered, many of the lumberjacks and residents of the nearby Pacific Northwest town of Millhaven overreact and try to hunt him down as a threat. At the heart of the film is a charming and inspirational tale of overcoming personal tragedy and finding familial bonds with the most likely of people and, in this particular case, creatures. The film is not only a family story, but it is a particularly well-done movie marked by beautiful cinematography, an atmospheric soundtrack, and a great cast. The whole experience is tinged with nostalgia harking back to the original film and other family-friendly classics. In addition, the film has an undercurrent relevant to contemporary issues of environmentalism. It can be seen as an allegory for preserving nature as it is: the conflict between the timber industry and park ranger service, as well as whether to allow Elliot to live in his native wild habitat or be held in captivity like a zoo animal. Overall, I thought the movie was better than the original animated version due to its creative blending of wholesome adventure, magical whimsy, endearing charm, and important lessons about family and nature.

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