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Pete's Dragon (3D)


Stars: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban

Director: David Lowery

Disney delivered Pete’s Dragon, the everyday story of a young lad’s unlikely friendship with a gigantic prehistoric reptile, way back in 1977.

It’s taken almost 40 years for the (inevitable?) remake.

Happily, thanks to the behind-the-camera talents of director (and cowriter Toby Halbrooks) David Lowery, excellent 3D cinematography (Bojan Bazelli) and, notably, admirable special effects that vividly create the now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t friendly green giant, the (inevitable?) reboot works well as attractive family fantasy.

Ancient rural woodworker Robert Redford (with improbably coloured hair sporting enough facial creases to double for the Grand Canyon) enjoys telling the children of his Pacific Northwest forest town about the legendary green dragon that lives unseen in the surrounding woods. Naturally, nobody believes him – including his forest ranger daughter Bryce Dallas Howard.

That is, until she meets mysterious 10-year-old youngster Pete (Oakes Fegley) who claims to be living in the forest with his friend, Elliot the dragon. Slowly she comes to believe the boy (who ended up an orphan when his parents died in a car crash) was adopted in the forest by Elliot and brought up to resemble Tarzan as a youngster.

And then, when forest ranger Howard and her boyfriend Wes Bentley set out to save the forest from predatory lumberjacks, Pete – and Elliott – set out to save the day – and the environment…

Lowery neatly blends an exciting and (ultimately) deliberately heartwarming family fantasy adventure with a far from subtle save-the-forest (for the record, the Pacific Northwest was played by New Zealand locations) subtext which should endear the film to the larger audience Disney has set out to win.

Young Fegley comes over as feisty and likeable, the adult roles are pleasingly played and the show is stolen, not surprisingly, by Eliot who, strangely for dragons who are usually depicted as scaly and reptilian, boasts a furry greenish coat, flies convincingly up into the skies and has the very useful ability to become invisible when the occasion demands it…

One strange thing struck me, however.

Clearly there are no barbers in the forest so that inevitably Pete boasts long hair when he first meets civilization. So is it that Bentley’s young daughter Oona Laurence who is only one year older and, presumably, has access to a hairdresser, have hair that is barely longer than Pete’s? Could Elliot be trimming the lad’s locks with his teeth? (Let’s hope the DVD extras, when they arrive, solve this hair-raising mystery.)

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 14 Aug 2016