My children love the original Pete’s Dragon, but were skeptical about the new release. I personally was excited to see this because so many of my friends online were saying how good it was. I do not read any reviews before I see a movie because I do not want to have a tainted viewpoint.
Pete’s Dragon was released in 1977. It was a live action film with an animated dragon named Elliot, but what really makes this version good was the musical score. The movie centers around a young orphan named Pete. Pete is friends with Elliot – a dragon who protects Pete and can be seen by no one but Pete. The movie begins as Pete is leaving his foster family. He is escaping because they are abusive and only want Pete for the money attached to having a foster child. Elliot is goofy looking and not scary. Everyone thinks that Pete has an imaginary friend.
Besides the story line of Pete being an orphan very little is the same between the two movies. Computer Animation replaces cartoons and things look very lifelike. Where the original version is light hearted, this version is not. But that is not to say that this version is heavy. It just lacks the antics and frolicking of the original.
Elliot is very large (interpret that to mean extremely large). Sometimes because of computer animation, directors and producers skimp on development of characters. I think they believe we are so taken in by the visuals that the actual dialogue and movie itself can be lackluster.
Because of computer animation and advanced filming techniques, movies are so visually stunning you feel like you are actually watching real life. But this film is so slow moving in parts that I think some children will be bored. There is also very little character development. You don’t get to really know most of the characters. Even the “bad guy” is not really that unlikable. However, Robert Redford (Meacham) is excellent in his role, and I wish we would have seen more of him on the screen.
I did enjoy this movie. It is not a blockbuster, and it is not the original. I almost wish they had renamed the boy and the dragon and just had it be a dragon movie. I was slightly disappointed in this movie. But there are no sexual scenes or potty humor which is quite refreshing. In one scene Robert Redford says, “red like hellfire,” but there is no other language.
Overall Pete’s Dragon is a good movie, but it isn’t a great movie. In fact when I asked Jack-Jack (my 11 year old autistic son who loves all Disney movies) if he wanted to see this movie again, he said, “No.” Usually when we are leaving a movie, he immediately (before we get out of our seats) says, “Can we see this movie again?” or “Can we buy it when it comes out on Blu-ray?”
Don’t get me wrong – there are endearing parts. A few times this movie moved me to tears, and I really loved the ending.
Can I recommend this movie? Absolutely, but I do so with a word of caution. Children retain images in their heads. Something a child watches today may not cause anxiety, but next week that image pops up while they are laying in bed at night and it suddenly becomes very real to them. I look at childhood development and make recommendations based on what is considered normal for children at different age levels. I would recommend Pete’s Dragon for ages 7-8 and up. BUT if you have any reservations, I would recommend reading my spoilers on page 2. There are some scenes that may cause problems even for older children.
As promised I will detail what I believe may scare some children (spoilers ahead):
In the very beginning, Pete is five years old and is reading a book in the backseat of his parent’s automobile. His mother is helping him with some words. They suddenly come upon a deer. You do not see the accident, but you hear the car crashing. You also hear Pete call his mom. They cut to the road and you see the upside down vehicle. You do not see Pete’s mom and dad, but you do see broken glass. Pete picks up his book and backpack and then wanders off. He encounters wolves in a dark forest scene. This is when he first sees Elliot who protects him from the wolves.
Elliot is extremely large and loud. For children with sensory issues this may be too much. Jack-Jack asked to go to the bathroom a couple of times. This is how he expresses his need to leave a movie due to boredom or being frightened. He commented how loud Elliot was so I believe that it was the noise level that bothered him.
The movie is very slow moving. Even my son (age 13) commented on that. Although most of the children in the theater seemed to be fine, I don’t think there were any very small children in the audience.
In several scenes the townspeople are chasing after Elliot. They shoot him with tranquilizer darts and tie him up. There is another scene where Elliot breathes fire on a bridge causing the bridge to break apart. A vehicle teeters on the edge of the destroyed bridge and finally plummets to the ravine below. Elliot does save the people, and you do not see the crash of the vehicle.
Pete escapes and runs away several times. He climbs out windows, goes up a fire escape, and runs from the police. He hangs on the back of a bus and climbs on the moving bus roof before jumping on the roof of a nearby vehicle. He is also seen climbing and hanging on to a steel bridge. He jumps off cliffs and out of trees expecting Elliot to be there.
When we were leaving the theater, a boy about the age of 7-8 was crying. He believed the movie was scary.
Feel free to comment with any questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you.