Release date: 12th August 2016/Watch the trailer here
Disney’s streak of live-action remakes of old classics continues this summer with Pete’s Dragon – the only difference being that, unlike The Jungle Book or Cinderella, the 1977 film on which it is based is neither well-loved nor particularly well-remembered. This has given Disney and director David Lowery the opportunity to completely reimagine the original tale about an orphan boy and his dragon friend, Elliot.
In this new version, Pete (Oakes Fegley) is left orphaned and abandoned in a forest following a tragic car accident that killed his parents. He lives in the forest for six years, surviving with the help of a giant, furry, green dragon named Elliot, until one day he is found by a young girl, Natalie (Oona Laurence), her father Jack (Wes Bentley), and his girlfriend, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard).
Pete’s Dragon gets off to a slow start: while the scenes of Pete and the adorable Elliot are good fun, there’s plenty of setting the scene and introducing of countless characters too – as well as Pete, Natalie, Jack and Grace, there is Grace’s dragon-believing father, Meacham (Robert Redford), and Jack’s dragon-hunting brother, Gavin (Karl Urban). However, the film soon begins to pick up without you even realising, until all of a sudden the credits are rolling, you’ve got something in your eye and you have no idea where the last 100 minutes went.
Once Elliot makes himself known to the characters other than Pete, Pete’s Dragon becomes an exciting adventure. It’s saccharine at times, but at its core it’s a beautiful, wholesome, old-fashioned family film, the kind that Disney used to be known for. It’s on a far smaller scale than the majority of the family fare that’s been on offer this summer, and it’s all the better for it, bringing a personal touch to a film that’s still packed full of magic and amazement.
Pete’s Dragon is also aided by its cast – while the adult actors (Bryce Dallas Howard and Robert Redford in particular) are admirable, it’s the two young child actors, Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence, who truly stand out.
It’s certainly one of the more surprising successes of the year, and one of Disney’s better remakes, too. In a word, it’s delightful, filled to the brim with childlike imagination and wonder. For every moment that will make you smile, there are more than a few that will make you cry, proving that even the oldest of clichés can still be lovely if they’re done right.