Every generation deserves a kid’s movie that will stay with them forever, one full of heart and a resounding message. With Pete’s Dragon, Disney has delivered just this to today’s generation of kids, finally, and aren’t they lucky? Parents can count themselves as lucky too that this is a movie they’ll want to see again, and it will likely have them wiping away a few tears.
For my generation, this kind of resonating film was The Neverending Story, and Pete’s Dragon plays clear homage to the children’s classic movie in the form of Elliot the dragon. In that story, a young boy who escapes the harsh realities of life through reading discovers a magical book that is the gateway to a fantasy world that is dying because human beings are no longer using their imagination.
In Pete’s Dragon, our hero Pete is a part of a world that is also disappearing: a world where kids have the marvelous ability to get lost exploring the forest, and the creativity to believe in something beyond their normal scope of existence…a dragon.
Pete, who finds a home in the forest under Elliot’s scaly wing after his parents pass away in a car accident, spends years living on this own in the forest, until a park ranger’s daughter discovers him. Out of his element, Pete must find his way again in the human world, and in the process discovers a part of himself that’s been missing.
Elliot the dragon is reminiscent of Falkor the dog-like dragon in The Neverending Story, only with more extensive CGI effects. Unlike Falkor, Elliot doesn’t speak, but his beautiful expressions say it all.
The movie is melancholy and a cautionary tale about human’s impact on nature. Just as The Neverending Story is a cautionary tale about what happens if humanity loses its imagination. Environmental activist Robert Redford is perfect in a movie that makes an environmental statement that doesn’t feel forced. Bryce Dallas Howard stars as the most gorgeous park ranger who ever lived, and Oakes Fegley stars as young Pete, who starts out as a kind of junior Tarzan.
Pete’s Dragon is a remake of the 1977 original, which is a sweet but forgettable live-action movie with an animated dragon in the style of Mary Poppins. The 2016 version is a drastic improvement.
This is everything a kids’ movie should be, sweet with a lot of heart and no attitude. Easily the best kids’ movie of the year, and a contender for best movie of the year, period.