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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 13, 2016

Pete’s Dragon Movie Review: A Heartwarming Family Movie About A Lost Boy And His Fire-Breathing Friend

“PETE’S DRAGON” is a remake of a musical with the same title made by Disney in 1977, a combination of live action and animation (like the earlier “Mary Poppins”) about the special friendship between a boy and his dragon. The 2016 version is also made by Disney but it’s no longer a musical but more of a tear jerking drama. Our granddaughter kept on crying in that scene where the dragon gets captured by bad guys and is put in chains.

In the original, Pete is a boy bought from an orphanage for $50. In the remake, we see 5-year old Pete and his parents in the opening scene going camping. A deer darts on the road and his dad tries to avoid it, leading to a tragic car crash in the woods. His parents die but Pete miraculously survives. He finds himself surrounded by wolves but a kind green dragon rescues him.

The dragon actually has a face that looks more like a dog, still fire-breathing but not the usual scaly type. He’s more furry and cuddly this time and looks like a puppy with wings. Just like in the original, he has the power to hide in plain sight and be invisible. Six years quickly pass and Pete (Oakes Fegley) grows up in the forest with his friend who he calls Elliott. He is now a feral boy that reminds you of Mowgli from “Jungle Book”.

The story is set in the forested town of Millhaven, where an old man (Robert Redford, originally played by Mickey Rooney) tells children a story about a dragon he says he has seen many many years ago but no one would believe him. His daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard, originally played by singer Helen Reddy), is a forest ranger who doesn’t believe him at all.

Grace is engaged to Jack (Wes Bentley), who has a daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence), who tags along to the forest one day and meets Pete by chance. Pete, while trying to save Natalie from falling from a tree, meets an accident and is taken to the town’s hospital. Exposed to civilization, Pete then takes Grace, her dad and Natalie to the forest to meet Elliott face to face. It turns out that Jack’s brother, Gavin (Karl Urban), has followed them with his men and they use tranquilizer darts to capture Elliott, intending to use him for some money-making business.

Animal lovers are advised to bring a hanky as this part of the movie will surely tug at their heartstrings. It’s to the credit of Director David Lowery that he has succeeded in humanizing Elliott so you’ll totally sympathize with him. The next sequences are filled with suspenseful scenes when Elliott has to breathe fire to defend himself from his kidnappers, thereby putting the lives of innocent people in danger. The CGI is astonishing and spectacular it’s worth the price of admission.

The acting is also quite generally fine. There are some “laylay” moments in the narrative but, all in all, it’s a heartwarming family movie with some humorous scenes, like Elliott discovering the wonders of a sprinkler system on the lawn. Too bad that the film didn’t do that well at the box office and is considered as one of the flops of the recent U.S. summer, along with the sequels of “Star Trek”, “Independence Day” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and other remakes like the big-budgeted “Ben Hur” and “Ghostbusters”, and originals like “Warcraft” and “The BFG”. Looks like movie audiences are getting harder and harder to please these days.