PG – 103mins – 2016 – 3D
TALL TALES OF TALL TAILS
I always thought I enjoyed Disney’s original 1977 version of Pete’s Dragon. But despite featuring a Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-preceding cartoon title character (courtesy of Don The Land Before Time Bluth), the Mickey Rooney-starring live action musical showcased some frankly cringeworthy song and dance numbers, cheesy overacting and “brazzle dazzle brilliance” aplenty… Trying to watch it again as an adult was an onerous task, and one I did not complete.
I was therefore hesitant upon hearing it was receiving an in-house Mouse House reboot, courtesy of blossoming filmmaker David Lowery (who has since been signed up to helm the back catalogue-looting company’s Peter Pan reboot, too), although news that Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrook’s new script was jettisoning the musical element to concentrate on the emotional drama was, ironically, music to my ears.
Also relievedly absent is the heinous catalyst that the young human protagonist was escaping from an abusive hillbilly family (yeesh). 2016’s Pete (Oakes Fegley) is instead tragically orphaned when his parents are killed in a car accident. Surviving the wreck, the poor child is chased by wolves, only for a giant furry green paternal surrogate to scare off his hungry hunters and protect the growing child for the next six years, living rough in Millhaven forest.
Having wrangled last summer with a camouflage-capable monstrous creature in Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard is well prepared for dealing with the far cuter and cuddlier “Elliott”, so-named after a lost dog in Pete’s favourite book. Brought up on her father’s (Robert Redford) accounts of mythical winged beasties living in the woodland, Park Ranger Grace Meacham (BDH) is stunned to discover some truth to these tall tales when her soon-to-be step-daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence), spots a young nomad roaming amidst the trees her lumberjack father (Wes Bentley) is about to fell.
With Star Trek Beyond‘s Karl Urban desperate to hunt, capture and profit off of the rare magical discovery, Pete’s Dragon dispels with fanciful humour in favour of a more sombre and hard-hitting focus on human drama with heartfelt themes of survival, friendship and adapting to change. I was blown away by the emotional sucker punch delivered by this enchanting fantasy, and am confident in claiming this stunning reboot betters its chintzy and dated source material.
CR@B’s Claw Score: