*** out of four
Pete's Dragon is that rare cinematic beast in today's movie market – a true family film. It's a pleasant fantasy that isn't overly sentimental, yet doesn't bow to cynicism.
An orphaned child, named Pete (Oakes Fegley), gets lost deep in the forest. He is, however, befriended by a magical dragon. Several years later, park ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds Pete, but Pete doesn't want to leave the forest and the company his “dragon” friend. Of course, no one believes that he has a pet dragon, but Grace isn't so quick to dismiss him since her elderly father (Robert Redford) has always told a tale of how he came face to face with a real, live dragon.
Pete's Dragon is a remake of Disney's bloated 1977 live-action period musical where the dragon, himself, is hand-drawn animation. This new modernized version is much different, and not in any way a scene for scene rehash. It is its own movie. The dragon, named Elliot, is computer generated and looks like a fluffy green dog. In fact, he resembles a cross between Falkor the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story (1984) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan from Pixar's Monsters, Inc. (2001).
The conclusion of Pete's Dragon is never in doubt, and it's not cutting edge filmmaking by any means, but it's a gentle, well-made movie for the entire family.