Pete’s Dragon? – Not Really

peteDragonWhy is this called Pete’s Dragon? I’ve seen Pete’s Dragon and this ain’t it. This was closer to Disney’s earlier summer remake The Jungle Book. What makes this so disappointing has nothing to do with the movie I was given. More about the movie I was promised…

When I saw the original Pete’s Dragon, I loved it. I was born in the 70s, so there is an instant connection. But it’s easy to see the fun and appeal of the original film. The cartoon dragon, the comedy actors, the wonderful singing voice of Helen Reddy as Nora. All great parts to a Disney musical comedy.

That’s the problem with the new Pete’s Dragon. It’s not a comedy. It’s not a remake. It’s not even a relaunch. It’s a completely unrelated film that happens to have a boy named Pete and a “dragon” named Elliot. Other than that, there is NOTHING that relates back to the original film. No songs, no Gogans, no Dr. Terminus and Hoagie, no lighthouse, no Passamaquoddy. When you call a film Pete’s Dragon, there is an unspoken promise to deliver SOMETHING that is reminiscent of the original movie.

As a stand alone movie about a boy lost in the woods and befriended by a dragon, the movie works fine. It’s charming, well-acted, and entertaining. I only have two beefs with this flick. 1) It’s not Pete’s Dragon and 2) Elliot is more of a dumb dog than a smart dragon. He’s furry, he chases his tail, he behaves with more dog qualities than dragon. A furry dragon? Gimme a break. I thought we were remaking Pete’s Dragon, not The Neverending Story.

There are things in this movie that work very well. I think the cast does a terrific job of portraying the characters. Bryce Dallas-Howard plays Grace, the lead female who does not sing, does not work at a lighthouse and is not looking for her lost fiancée. She does a great job and is always very watchable. Also, I’m glad to see she has lost the awful hairstyle she had in Jurassic World.

peteDragon2Robert Redford replaces Mickey Rooney as the father figure. Karl Urban shows up as the antagonist and future brother-in-law of Dallas-Howard’s Grace. Oona Lawrence is added in as a sisterly type friend for Pete. And Pete himself is played by Oaks Fegley in a horrible wig. They all do very good. It is not a bad movie. It’s just not a remake of Pete’s Dragon.

If this had been about a different boy, it would have worked as a sequel. Elliot is off helping a different kid: Bill’s Dragon. Or a different dragon would also have worked. You can’t change absolutely everything about a movie a call it a remake. Pete’s Dragon is as much a remake of Pete’s Dragon as Eragon, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, or Dragonheart.

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