**The following is an in-depth review of “Pete's Dragon” and does contain spoilers.**
"Pete's Dragon" is the latest in what is becoming a long line of live-action remakes of classic Disney animated films.
"Pete's Dragon" is a different because in the original 1977 film only the dragon, Elliott, was actually animated. Also unlike many of the recent remakes, "Pete's Dragon" deviates considerably from the original story making it an almost entirely new film.
The new story centers around Pete, a 6-year-old boy whose family is killed in a freak car accident while traveling across the country. Pete emerges from the wreck mostly unscathed and, being lost in the middle of nowhere, wanders off into the woods. In the woods he finds a furry green dragon whom he names Elliott - after the dog in a children's book his parents were reading to him. He stays with Elliott, hidden away in the forest, for the next six years.
This image released by Disney shows Oona Laurence as Natalie, left, and Oakes Fegley as Pete, right, with Elliot the dragon, in a scene from "Pete's Dragon." (Disney via AP)
The story moves away from Pete and the audience is introduced to the human characters: Mr. Meacham, Mr. Meacham's daughter Grace, and Grace's step-daughter Natalie.
Grace is a park ranger and her jurisdiction is the forest in which Pete and Elliott are living. Her father told her stories about seeing the fabled dragon in the woods, but Grace dismisses them because she's never seen him herself. This is, of course, because Elliott can disappear at will.
Grace happens upon Pete one day, now 12, living in the forest seemingly alone. Pete explains to Grace about the accident and how he had lived in the forest ever since. Grace, compassionate for the boy, takes him in.
While all this is happening, Gavin - who is a lumberjack and works for his brother, Grace's husband Jack - hears the legends of the dragon who lives in the woods and decides to capture it. Gavin is successful and brings Elliott back on a flatbed. It then falls on Pete and his new friends to free Elliott and release him back into the wild.
Gone is the early 1900s setting of the original, with lumberjacks taking the place of the original fishermen. Instead, the new film is set in the 1980s. This period setting is mostly irrelevant, however, and has nothing to do with the story. Most members of the audience probably won't even recognize the film as being set in any particular period at all.
This newer version of the classic Disney film isn't a bad movie. It's beautifully shot, all the actors - especially Robert Redford as Mr. Meacham - turn in wonderfully captivating performances. The CGI Elliott is a delight to behold, calling back to Falcor the Luck Dragon from "The NeverEnding Story." While Elliott isn't quite as photo-real as the animals in "The Jungle Book," he's quite believable and wonderfully voiced by former Crypt Keeper John Kassir.
The main fault with this movie is just that it struggles to hold the interest of an adult audience. Where "The Jungle Book" could appeal to both children and parents, "Pete's Dragon" just doesn't have enough meat and potatoes to keep the adults invested in the story.
The film also seems to have lost much of the Disney magic the original had. A magic which, unfortunately, Disney hasn't really been able to deliver since "The Lion King" and may be lost forever.
The changes in the film's story actually make the movie less interesting. In the original Pete was a runaway, not an orphan, who escaped an abusive home. His parents had come to reclaim him from his newfound foster home, which brought some tension to the original not present in the remake.
Also lost is the notion that Elliott is a magical force who wanders the world helping children in need. Basically, the remake strips the film of all the substance found in the original and reduces it to basically a friendly creature being chased by humans who don't understand him story. Frankly, "E.T." tells that story much better than "Pete's Dragon" does.
Child audiences will be able to appreciate this film much more than adults can because children expect less from a movie than adults do. Parents, however, may struggle to stay awake.
"Pete's Dragon" currently holds an 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, dwarfing the original's meager 48 percent.
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