My memories of the 1977 Pete’s Dragon stop at sketchy recollections of the green-and-purple title character and a general fondness. The update from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints filmmaker David Lowery retains the general tale of an orphan and his caretaker dragon and adds so many layers of emotion you’d better bring plenty of tissue.
After losing his parents in a car accident, Pete spends several years in the forest with a furry green dragon he calls Elliot. After a rough re-entry into civilization, Pete meets a potential new family in park ranger Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard), who has heard stories of Elliot from her father (Robert Redford), her fiancé, Jack (an ill-cast Wes Bentley, who leaves you waiting for him to do something evil) and his daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence, Bad Moms). But first, they have to save the legendary creature from Jack’s brother, Gavin (Karl Urban).
Lowery finds the magical soul at the heart of Disney’s 1977 live-action/animated musical—a perfect candidate for reinvention due to its belovedness and age—and fashions a most sincere children’s film that has the potential to join the much-adored kid-friendly cinema of the fondly remembered decade—the 1980s—in which it is set.
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