I’m a big fan of the original Pete’s Dragon, a mix of animation and live action that was a technical marvel when it was released in the late 1970s. My father took my siblings and me to see it after our dog got hit by a car. We were still mighty bummed out, but the movie cheered us up for a couple of hours.
I bristled a bit when I heard they were remaking it as a live-action film with a CGI Elliott the Dragon. I got annoyed when I heard they were dumping the music—in the original, the music was pretty goofy, yet quite charming.
Director David Lowery changed the whole thing from a comedy into a rather dour family drama about a young kid who is orphaned after a car accident in the first scene. Oakes Fegley plays Pete, who turns into a little Tarzan who howls like a wolf when he’s sad. Elliott the Dragon, a furry CGI concoction that always looks a little strange and off, rescues him.
The whole film failed to grab me, and pales in comparison to the original. Robert Redford shows up as an old guy who saw the dragon when he was younger, but nobody believes him. He’s essentially the Mickey Rooney character from the original—minus all of the fun.
Special Features: There are a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as a director’s commentary.