Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pete's Dragon (2016)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Science, forget everything else you're working on and get me a furry dragon.  I want a badass pet!

Pete’s Dragon (2016) – 4 out of 5

The 1977 musical original of Pete’s Dragon is a film that I have very little recollection of.  I remember watching it a few times as a kid on the old VCR but I was never really a fan of Disney’s live-action stuff (or the live-action/animation mix, in this case).  Other than the look of the dragon itself, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the movie because I don’t remember anything.  I haven’t bother to watch it since I was a child and even then I wasn’t invested in it enough for it to have a lasting impact (maybe I should revisit it for the blog?).  That being said, when I watched the trailer for this new re-imagining of that film, I was pretty intrigued.

A tale as old as time...about a boy and his dragon.

After an accident leaves the young Pete stranded and alone in a large and sprawling forest, he discovers a furry and friendly dragon to protect and care for him.  Years pass and Pete (Oakes Fegley) is discovered by a park ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard).  He’s taken into her care but his dragon Elliot is out to find his missing friend.  Local lumberjack Gavin (Karl Urban) stumbles upon the dragon and sets out to capture him, thinking he’s helping the town and saving them from a potential menace.  Now Pete, along with some help from Grace’s father Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford), who had seen the dragon years ago, must rescue Elliot and prove to the town that the dragon isn’t dangerous and means no harm.

I'm not crying.  To quote Flight of the Conchords, "It's just been raining
on my face."

How can my dogs even compete against cuteness
of that level?
Pete’s Dragon is essentially a popcorn movie with the emphasis not being on mindless action and spectacle but rather on the heart.  The film never really dives too deep into the friendship of Elliot and Pete, it doesn’t explore in detail their separation or Pete attempting to learn about this world that was lost from him so many years ago.  It covers it but none of this is examined on any elaborate scale.  Instead, it’s all about skimming the surface and making something that has the right amount of charm, heart, and whimsy that it can be an easy watch and you don’t have to invest too much brain matter to view.  I know that sounds like an insult but it’s actually a good thing.  Basically, this movie is a great family film that has it delivering entertainment in all the appropriate doses to make it a feature that has a lot of replay value and great potential to be a new classic from Disney.  Pete’s Dragon is just something that you can sit back with, relax, and just feel good about watching.  It’s like a movie version of comfort food.

I wanna be a park ranger...only so I can wear those hats and possibly
stumble upon a little boy who has an adorable dragon.

Director David Lowery does a tremendous job with the visuals in this film and the lush greens that splash across the screen and the warm, sunlight-like glow the entire film has ends up feeling like the whole thing is wrapped up in a cozy blanket.  The visuals just feel engineered to make you feel all warm and fuzzy—like Elliot.  The movie also contains a great story that is effective in its simple structure.  There’s nothing complicating things or matters that feel like they need more development.  The story and plot just move fluidly with nothing holding them down or like something is missing.  It’s your basic storytelling and it’s accomplished effectively well.

"There's a dragon?  Sheeeeit."

The design and special effects used to create Elliot the dragon was another impressive element to the feature.  In the original, Elliot was a cartoon but this time around there’s a balance that the design takes that makes the dragon feel a tad on the cartoon side but real enough that he feels like he belongs in this reality.  They also did a great job of honoring the 70s design with this new look—and I can’t help but love the hairy look of Elliot.  Who doesn’t want to run up and hug him?  Finally, the special effects used to make him and interact with the environment and characters are pretty amazing.  Just the fur effects alone are enough to make my jaw drop.

For context on how good the special effects are, everything in this pic
is computer generated.

The word "legend" gets tossed around pretty
easily but this dude is definitely legendary.
The last element of the film that really made this a charming feature is the cast.  I was very impressed with Oakes Fegley as Pete and not only loved his interactions with the completely CG dragon but his interaction with the cast was excellent.  I also really dug Karl Urban as the film’s semi-antagonist.  You see he’s not totally bad and the script does a great job of making him less of a one-dimensional villain and more of a guy who thinks he’s doing good for his town and his family—and Urban does a great job of showing that.  Finally, I really enjoyed the charm that Robert Redford brought to his role as Mr. Meacham.  He really added to the film’s heartwarming and tear-jerking moments (and even some amusing moments, too).  In all honesty though all the actors in the film did they’re jobs wonderfully.

This is probably not the appropriate time to bring up a Dredd sequel...
but, yeah, it would be really nice to have one!

There are no real surprises to Pete’s Dragon.  What you see is what you get and you pretty much know exactly how it’s going to play out from start to finish.  However, within this presentation of familiarity is a film that is very charming and very endearing.  Its story and cast made me smile and definitely made me tear up with joy over the events and even chuckle pleasantly over the good natured humor it contained.  Like I stated earlier, Pete’s Dragon is the movie equivalent of comfort food and we call certain foods our “comfort food” because it is something we are familiar with and it’s something that makes us feel good—and that’s what this movie is.  Something that didn’t really surprise me but really made me feel good.

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