Every time an announcement is made that some studio is going to remake a film that has any meaning, a group of people line up with torches and pitchforks to complain. Their grievances are not always the same but some have already made up their mind that something they cherish is about to be destroyed. While feelings do arise in me I tend to not get too upset and get on the “it’s not a big deal” wagon and welcome with open arms a retelling of any classic story. Disney has been at the forefront and has started going though its classic library and retelling some of those beloved stories. Those were the movies that came in the old-school Disney VHS bubble cases and ended up being stuck in your VCR for months and months, at least until the next one came out.
With “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book” being both critical and box office hits you knew more were sure to be on the horizon. With films like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Marry Poppins” both on their way, get ready for all those classic stories getting some new life. A film out of my childhood that was on constant play was “Pete’s Dragon” and upon hearing they were telling the story again peaked my interest. Having not seen the original for so long, I was curious what modern technology/storytelling would do to a story I have warm feelings for. Pete (Oakes Fegley) as a little boy ends up in a forest after an accident. While roaming around lost he is rescued from a pack of wolves by a dragon. Fast forward six years later we find Pete and that dragon, which he has named Elliott, are two peas in a pod and use the forest as their playground. Pete is discovered while a logging company is starting to clear deeper in the forest. Natalie (Oona Laurance) sees him and plays with this mystery kid. Pete is discovered and he isn’t the only one with eyes on him, as Elliott is also seen, this time by Gavin (Karl Urban), who sees him as his big ticket in the world. While Gavin has plans for Elliott, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) a Wildlife Ranger and her father Meacham (Robert Redford) try to help Pete and his dragon reunite and free them both before the whole world finds out about them.
Director David Lowery and co writer Toby Halbrooks knew how Elliott would look very early on in the process, with fur being one of the big must haves. Fur was chosen for its cuddling properties as scales would not have made for a comfortable bed when Pete would sleep on Elliot’s stomach. They also avoided watching the original for fear of accidentally taking something from it since they wanted to tell their own story. The story they told is beautiful, as it’s basically a boy and his dog, which Elliot acts as a giant version of. He’s loving and protective and the themes of family are scattered throughout the story. It’s the kind of movie you can take a family to and everyone would enjoy it. Sure we have those films now, but they often include animated talking animals, fart jokes, and shoe-horned in music. “Pete’s Dragon” is a film that gets to you through the emotions it evokes and will have you feeling like you are on the back of Elliot as he fly’s through the air. With moments that will make you smile from ear to ear and then grabbing a your shirt to wipe away the tears of emotion this film hits all those points. I think what Lowery and Halbrooks have done this kind of magic in the best way, by not explaining it, but accepting and embracing it, so you can add “Pete’s Dragon” to the list of Disney remakes done right. Simply put, it is the most magical family film of the year!