Kids, it’s time for a treat. Little Pete is barely introduced to the word ‘adventure’ when he’s orphaned near a jungle and encounters a fierce-looking dragon. In all his five-year-old innocence, he asks the gigantic grunting creature, “Are you going to eat me?” The dragon smothers him with love and friendship instead for the next six years.
Close to the jungle, grandpa Meacham has been regaling kids about a dragon. His daughter Grace smilingly disses his stories. Grace knows the jungle like the back of her hand but she’s never seen a dragon there. Meacham wistfully remarks, she believes only what she sees.
Life is idyllic for jungle boy Pete and Elliot, his dragon friend who can vanish at will and camouflage himself when curious humans come sniffing.
Sure enough, it is humans who spell trouble when they come looking for timber and end up as trigger-happy hunters. On the one hand is gentle Grace with husband Jack and daughter Natalie who chance upon Pete, take him home and introduce him to the warmth of family life. On the other hand is Gavin who seeks personal glory by hunting down Elliot.
It’s Pete and Elliot at the centre of unwanted attention. Their separation and heartbreak are imminent and your heart dips and soars with them.
Writer-director David Lowery weaves a predictably sweet film which makes a heart-connect much like ET did years ago. There’s fun, friendship and family. Toby Halbrooks’ screenplay has terrific little asides like Elliot intrigued by a sprinkler in the garden. There’s tenderness and tears but a warm happy ending with Pete and Elliot finally galloping in the air with joy.
Robert Redford as grandpa Meacham who believes in dragons, Bryce Dallas Howard as gentle and motherly Grace and Oakes Fegley as Pete going through a gamut of emotions, make it a delightful adventure fantasy.
It’s also a relief that unlike cats, dogs, rabbits and other recently animated creatures, Elliot is not a talking dragon. He grunts, he groans, his eyes talk. You can almost feel the pangs of separation and the pain of capture the dragon suffers.
For a remake that’s worth a revisit with today’s bunch of kids, Pete’s Dragon gets a 3.5 star rating.