Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: A fair to middling children’s movie.  Cute in all the ways it needs to be.  Karl Urban will always be Dr. McCoy.

I don’t remember much from the original “Pete’s Dragon” cartoon from the 60s, but I know this remake has almost nothing in common with it except there is a kid named Pete (Oakes Fegley) and that there is also a Dragon named Elliot.  This 2016 version is decent enough in an “everyone learns their lesson way too easily” sort of way, but it’s not a good sign when the height of drama happens in the first five minutes of the movie where Pete is left orphaned in the middle of the woods after a car crash that takes both of his parents.  Pretty grim stuff by Disney standards, but it’s handled admirably.

Bryce Dallas Howard is Grace, a motherly type forest ranger who, along with her daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence), finds Pete in the forest and helps to reacclimate him to civilization.  I remember thinking when seeing she was in the movie, “Oh, Bryce Dallas Howard is in this film I like her.  What do I like her in?” Turns out that the answer to that is nothing.  I like her in nothing.  Well, no, I like her in stuff, but “Pete’s Dragon” may be the best movie she’s ever been in, which isn’t saying much.  I liked her in this too and I am happy to report that she did not run through the forest in high heels. *cough* “Jurassic World” *cough*

I feel bad for Karl Urban.  He’s a decent actor.  He’s also indelibly imprinted into my brain as Dr. McCoy from the new Star Trek franchise.  In “Pete’s Dragon”, he plays Galvin, a self-absorbed lumberjack who is constantly pushing boundaries for no reason whatsoever and who is as close to an antagonist as the film comes to.  The problem is every time there is a close-up of him, I expect a Bones witticism to escape his mouth.  Maybe he lacks facial depth which is why he was so good in the “Dredd” movie where he was kept in a helmet the entire time.

Robert Redford plays Meecham, Grace’s dad and the only adult to believe that dragons are real.  Hint: they are.  He belts out his lines in a very Robert Redford-y way.  It’s hard not to like him even if this wasn’t exactly the most challenging of roles for him to play.

Then there’s Elliot the Dragon, played by about a million animators and artists who obviously spent most of their time watching puppy videos on YouTube.  Elliot behaves in almost every way like a dog would except in those moments when they needed her/him to behave elsewise.  This makes him an enjoyable, if hollow character.  I guess there are also humans who only seldom (seldomly is a useless variant word even though it would sound much better here) show intelligence, but we don’t make movies about them, now do we?  Also, would a dragon who breathes fire really be covered in fur?  Intelligent design, my ass.

“Pete’s Dragon” is a cute movie for the kiddies and a good movie for adults to share with their kids.  Beyond that, it’s decent enough of a film if you’re into those feel good movies without much of a point.  Despite it also being released in 3D (which I didn’t see it in), there’s not much need to see it on the big screen, though some of the forest scenes are pretty majestic.