Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pete's Dragon (2016)

**1/2 out of ****

After a slew of unnecessary remakes, Disney added yet another re-imagining of one of their properties that didn’t seem quite as blasphemous. The 1977 film Pete’s Dragon was one of my favorite movies to rent at the video store when I was a kid - much to my parent’s annoyance - and I’m sure that if I revisited it now, I’d hate it.

It is the good ideas that could have worked, which deserve remakes and while I think that the results of David Lowery’s 2016 version are mediocre, I’m happy that it’s improved in any way at all. Elliot the dragon is a decent CGI character and a welcome substitute for a hand-drawn cartoon imposed on live action footage in the original (though I loved that stuff as a kid). The creature reminds me of Peter Jackson’s King Kong for getting us emotionally invested in a simulated beast that may remind us of a loving pet.

The score, however, represents the lame run-of-the-mill work Disney has been applying to most of their live action movies through various composers. This score may not be as awful as the songs used in the '77 musical version, but it’s just as incessant through unoriginal cues attempting to evoke feelings of wonder and triumph way before they're needed thanks to a background choir chanting through most pieces. Really, I’m so bored with this stuff. I believe that better use of music would have elevated the film tremendously.

Oaks Fegley makes an interesting ferrel version of Pete and while Karl Urban, Bryce Dallas Howard and Wes Bentley lend some effective screen presence, their characters could use more definition - but not as much as Robert Redford, whose acting of late is no different than when he provides voice-over narration for a commercial.

I was digging for subtext in this completely new story, but it seemed like some pretty surface-level eco-friendly vagueness. I know I've said it before in my Transformers 4 review, but I'll say it again: Just re-watch The Iron Giant.

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