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About a week ago, I was at the BlogHer Conference in LA. While the conference was fantastic, the highlight for me was getting to see an advanced screening of “Pete’s Dragon” (this screening was entirely separate from the conference). The original has always been a favorite of mine and I was anxious to see how Disney rebooted it. I settled into my chair my popcorn and drink in hand, ready to be transported back to childhood.
The movie did not disappoint! And here’s why. ..
First, Disney is masterful at capturing magic in their storytelling and it continue through to this movie. One of the reasons I loved the original is because I could relate to the child-like belief and innocence of believing in things that others may not see. That same sense of believing in the impossible is found in this new version of “Pete’s Dragon”. In fact, one of my favorite quotes from the movie, from Robert Redford’s character says, “If you only see what’s in front of you, you’re gonna miss out on a lot”.
Grace, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, doesn’t believe that something like Elliot exists. She’s worked, played, and explored in the woods her entire life but never saw Elliot or Pete. It’s not until she opens her mind and heart, that she is able to see something that had been right there all along.
Second, the sweet relationship between Pete and Elliot is innocent and pure. The two need each other for different reasons and each is searching for a place in a family. It’s very much like the relationship you see between a boy and his dog, lovable and endearing. Pete literally needs Elliot to survive. Elliot is tied to Pete through a magical connection. Oakes Fegley, who plays Pete, does a superb job of showing the depth of love he has for his dragon through his laughter, tears, and the pain he shares when Elliot is in trouble.
Third, I absolutely loved that, while Disney updated the movie, the setting for the movie is around the late 1970’s, when the original was first shot and made (the original was released in 1977 though it’s setting is around the turn of the century). There wasn’t one cell phone, CD player, or flat screen TV used. And I LOVED it! Because it was set in a different time than modern day, you are thrown back into a time when kids spent hours playing outside and using their imaginations, rather than hooked on a screen. I was reminded of days in my youth spent running around with friends both real and imaginary. This was a thoughtful choice on the part of the writers and it lent to the overall feel of magic and child-like joy that the film exudes.
Fourth, Elliot was perfectly made. They actually used the same face and expressions of the original Elliot! It can be difficult to characterize a non-human actor but they did it with him. You could see the sadness or joy in his eyes and expressions and he brought the audience to laughter in more than one scene.
Instead of scales, they gave Elliot coarse green hair. It was so realistic, I knew how it would feel just looking at it. If computer animated characters could be given awards, Elliot would win one for certain! If he wasn’t perfect, the story would not have worked well. Thankfully, Disney nailed it on the head and Elliot is a beloved character who you root for from the beginning to the end.
Finally, the acting is beautifully done from Bryce Dallas Howard to Robert Redford to Oakes Fegley. Each played their characters perfectly. This movie will help you appreciate family again as Pete and Elliot find and create their own. The values of love, respect, trust, and faith, values needed in families, are woven throughout. You will leave with a greater love and appreciation for your own family, including your pets! We went home and scooped up our kitty for some snuggles that night.
As a mom, I appreciated the lack of bad language or overly scary scenes. With a dragon as one of the stars, it would have been easy to add some scarier scenes but there was nothing that concerned me for my children. If your kids are a little sensitive, they may find a couple of parts scary (Elliot does breathe fire at one point) but showing them the trailer beforehand should help with that.
We took our kids to see the movie Friday night. They were hooked from the opening scene. When it was over, they both talked and talked about how much they wanted to be like Pete, who was so brave, and that they wanted their own pet dragon. The movie inspired them to create their own imaginary dragons and they have been “flying” around the house all weekend!
And that’s the beauty of Disney. They are still inspiring people, both young and old, to use their imaginations, to see the magic in the world.
I would also like to add that I saw the movie twice in a week and loved it just as much the second time around! “Pete’s Dragon” is now out in theaters everywhere.
Has your family seen it yet? I would love to hear what you thought!