The original Pete’s Dragon (1977) came out when I was a kid. I saw it quite a few times growing up and while I never remember considering it a great movie, I thought it was enjoyable fun. Now, almost forty years later, Disney has delivered a reimagining of the film and I had nearly the same response. It’s a sweet, enjoyable film with a positive message and it looks really good, too. Props to whomever decided to remove the corny songs!
It should come as no surprise that that this story begins with a tragedy–we are talking about Disney after all. A young boy named Pete is left to fend for himself after his parents die in a car accident. As darkness falls and it looks like wolves are about to eat him for snack, a dragon appears and wicks him to safety.
Fast forward six years and Pete (Oakes Fegley), who looks rather like a pint-sized Tarzan, has been living with the dragon he named Elliot deep in the woods, far away from animals or civilization that might interfere with their lives. Things are great until a logging company encroach especially on their land and Pete mistakenly reveals himself. Brought into town by a friendly forest ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), Pete gets a taste of what it’s like to be part of a family when Grace welcomes him into her home with her fiancee Jack (Wes Bentley) and daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence). Meanwhile, convinced Pete is in danger, Elliot sets out to rescue him. Unfortunately, after Jack’s brother (Karl Urban) encounters Elliot and sees the dragon as a financial goldmine, Pete must save his friend.
That’s pretty much it. There’s not much in the way of surprises here. What’s here is well told and it’s always nice to see Robert Redford on the big screen. Here he plays Howard’s eccentric father Meacham. He claims to have once spotted a dragon himself and regularly tugs at your heartstrings with tales of childhood memories. It’s all very sentimental, but combined with a CG dragon that’s realistic and adorable, it works well enough to entertain its intended audience.
Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer looks beautiful. The greens of the forest simply pop. The other colors are vivid and lively, but never overdone. Sharpness is excellent throughout, with the CG work on Elliot’s fur looking completely realistic in texture. Black levels are perfect and contrast is consistent.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack is reference quality material, exhibiting excellent directionality even though the dialogue is largely based in the center channel. Daniel Hart’s background score and other songs are well spread through the fronts and rears. Atmospheric effects are given a wide berth throughout the soundstage, mixing expertly with all other elements.
English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary: Writer/director David Lowery, co-writer Toby Holbrook and young stars Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence view the movie and discuss their experiences during filming. The participants are clearly having fun.
- Notes to Self: A Director’s Diary (HD, 7:31) Director David Lowery takes note of important moments during the five-month shoot in New Zealand. We got a Behind-the-Scenes look at the set.
- Making Magic (HD, 2:12) Voice over comments from actors Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, and Oona Laurence along with director David Lowery enhance behind the scenes shots of the actors performing with various kinds of stand-ins for Elliot.
- “Disappearing” Moments (HD, 9:12) Director David Lowery presents a montage of various deleted, alternate, or extended scenes from the film.
- Bloopers (HD, 1:29)
- “Nobody Knows” Music Video (HD, 3:29) Performed by The Lumineers.
- “Something Wild” Music Video (HD, 3:45) Performed by Lindsey Stirling and Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness.
- Welcome to New Zealand (HD, 1:56) Director David Lowery and actress Bryce Dallas Howard discuss the beauty of the country and why it was chosen for filming.
- DVD/Digital Copy: Disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.