"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Sunday, August 14, 2016

76 Days: Pete's Dragon reboot

I'm a huge fan of the original Pete's Dragon. I believe I still have the soundtrack LP downstairs as a matter of fact. I will be the first to admit that I wasn't thrilled with the idea of a remake. Then, when the first images were released and I saw the forest setting, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be going to see it. It wasn't that I wanted a carbon copy of the first film, going in a new direction was a great idea to not spoil the original for people like me. I was afraid this was going to be another Lorax, yet another preachy morality tale about how evil capitalist loggers are and how the underdog spirit of the forest has to teach them to conserve Mother Earth's vital resources. But the more I heard and saw from the movie, the more intrigued I was. The CGI Elliot was undeniably cool. Matter of fact, it's the resemblance of his facial expressions to the looks of the original animated Elliot that made me decide I really must see this film. And I'm so very glad I did.

I walked in still not convinced I wouldn't be watching a Sierra Club commercial. When I saw it set in a logging town and a logger was confronted about "going too far in," I thought "oh well, here we go." But that plot line never developed. The loggers were portrayed as real human beings who happened to pursue forestry as a career. The man who owned the logging company, or at least ran it and stood to inherit the business, was one of the "good guys." His younger brother was the closest the film has to a human antagonist, but he isn't driven by greed. His failing such as it is, is that he's in the shadow of his older brother and wants to be someone on his own. He's not a bad guy at all. Disney portrayed loggers as people. I love Disney.

Pete's Dragon is about family and acceptance and loyalty. The real antagonist is misunderstanding. Oh, and it's about magic. That is what has me sold on this movie. It contains that little nugget of magic that makes all the best Disney stories great. Robert Redford completely owns this film, in my opinion, thanks to his grandfather character's 30 second explanation of magic to his grown daughter. It's absolutely brilliant and something Walt would have loved and something you, as a Disney fan, need to see as soon as you can.

The rest of the film is hugely entertaining as well. The CGI Elliot is every bit the dragon you may remember, and will work his way into the hearts of kids who've not seen the original just as animated Eliot worked his way into mine. Oakes Fegley portrays Pete expertly. He has few lines, really, as a child who raised himself in the woods should. He conveys his thoughts and feelings with facial expressions and body language that is impressive for a young actor. The rest of the acting is good as well, and everyone is Disney-pretty as they should be. The film was shot in New Zealand, so the scenery is out of this world beautiful. The story has ups and downs, it pulls on the heart-strings and may elicit a tear or two on the way to a suitably happy ending.

Pete's Dragon is great for any child old enough to sit through a movie and is a must see for any adult who has any spark of magic alive in his or her soul.

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