Monday, September 26, 2016

Pete's Dragon (Brockway)

Pete's Dragon

If a few subversive sausages are a bit too much to handle, try David Lowery's "Pete's Dragon." This is a re-invention of the 1977 animated Disney feature that uses rich naturalistic details. Rather than duplicate the original storyline, Disney wisely takes a new tact, while still retaining the feel-good magic of the first film.

Here Pete (Oakes Fegley) is a young boy on a camping trip with his parents. The car suddenly flips, leaving the boy an orphan. Alone in the wild, Pete has a guardian animal in the form of a fuzzy green dragon.

In addition to being a fantasy, the film with sweeping landscape passages is also a meditation on nature and magic and how the two elements are mixed, especially in a child's mind.

Robert Redford plays well as Meacham, an elderly ranger who is a spokesman for the wilderness and by extension, magic. It is no surprise that his character is the only adult who believes in dragons.

Oona Laurence is solid as Natalie, the other youngster who believes.

We are in typical Disney / Spielberg territory: the adults are clueless and uncommunicative, prefering to solve all obstacles and problems with guns.

Surprisingly, the direct story is very accessible, treating both the dragon and the boy with refreshing realism, heart and grace. These are no mere flashy and zooming effects in 3-D. The dragon is an emotional, feeling creature fused together by a kind of natural supernatural with a real heart and an assemblage of bones.

Taking a cue from "The Jungle Book," Oakes Fegley is perfect as the unschooled "wild child" put together by a unfettered forest and open to the sorcery of trees. This is relatively relaxed old-school filmmaking, possessing notes of "E.T." and even David Lynch's own Disney film "The Straight Story  (given its hyperrealism of the woods) but it bears a stronger resemblance, of course, to the Disney films of the 50's and 60's in its clear delineation of Good and Evil, peppered by comic relief and cleansed with tears.

Whether you are open to flying beasts or not, the new "Pete's Dragon" will have you watching the clouds for more than just inclement weather.

Write Ian at

No comments: