Pete (Oakes Fegley; This is Where I Leave You) is a 6-year-old boy who is on an "adventure" with his parents when tragedy strikes. Swerving to miss a deer in the road, the car Pete and his parents are in ends up upside down on a remote road in the woods. Pete reluctantly leaves the car and finds himself in the woods surrounded by wolves. Suddenly, he is rescued by a large, hairy green dragon that he names Elliot, after the dog in his favorite book.
Fast forward 6 years, and Pete and Elliot are living a peaceful life in the woods when Pete is discovered by some loggers and a park ranger (Bryce Dallas Howard; Jurassic World). Having been on his own for so many years, Pete is unaccustomed to people and civilization, and all he wants is to return to Elliot and their woods. Unfortunately, some of the loggers discover Elliot and trap him as their "prize". As the town of Mill Haven finds that Elliot is real and not an old hunter's tale, Pete must do what he can to save the dragon.
Despite a solid cast – Howard, Fegley, Robert Redford (All the President's Men), Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games), and Karl Urban (Star Trek Beyond) – Pete's Dragon is severely lacking on so many levels. The cast is a good mix and obviously full of veteran actors, but the script is uninspired and bogged down with clichés, which makes even strong actors unable to perform at their peak.
The movie itself is dark, depressing and not suitable for its intended audience –families with young children. From the opening sequence of the insinuated deaths of Pete's parents, to his exile in the forest, his subsequent return to civilization and the loss of his dragon protector, the movie is simply boring and sad. It will scare children and make parents wonder what Disney Studios were thinking.
Elliot is a product of today's modern technology with superior special effects. However, even he can't escape the criticism that should befall this feature. In order to soften the harshness of a dragon, they made his mannerisms more dog like and even gave him a body full of green fur. I don't know about you but all the dragons I have encountered in the movies and on television have all had scales not fur. And Elliot's flying sequences were clearly CGI at its finest, but even that couldn't make up for so many other flaws.
Even the soundtrack is lacking and unoriginal. I know I heard at least a few 8 counts of "Some Where Out There" from An American Tail, as well as a few bars of a lesser-known Josh Groban tune whose title escapes me right now. The familiarity of the songs was distracting, as I kept trying to figure out where I had heard the music before, while trying to pay attention to the film before me.
I honestly wasn't looking forward to this movie before I saw it and I was disheartened to realize I was right. I left the theater wondering why this film was made and disappointed that I spent almost two hours of my life watching it. Between this movie and this summer's earlier release, The BFG, I have to wonder what is going through the minds of the people at Disney who green light these projects.
If you were a fan of the original, or if you think this will be a good movie for your kids, don't bother.