HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Pete's Dragon
HTS Overall Score:83
I grew up with the original “Pete’s Dragon” playing in the background for much of my childhood. I begged my mother to let me watch it for my weekly movie night and laughed along with the light hearted musical every single time I was allowed to see it. Disney used to be a POWERHOUSE in the live action world, almost rivaling their legendary animated films at times. “The Absent Minded Professor”, “Condorman”, “The Parent Trap”, “The Love Bug”, “Pete’s Dragon” and the like all were amazing films for a reason. The love and care that went into their creation was hugely obvious and the audiences ate it up. Now when I heard that they were re-doing “Pete’s Dragon” for a 2016 audience I was instantly turned off. Disney hasn’t been too steady with their recent live action kid’s films the last 15 years or so and WHY would you remake a classic!? When I realized that this was more of a reimagining of the IDEA of “Pete’s Dragon” and not an exact carbon copy or remake of the 1977 classic I was less hesitant. Still, there was some trepidation going into this viewing as I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. The 2016 rendition is nowhere near as fun and heartfelt as the 1977 version, but it’s still a sweet and heartwarming modern fantasy that does a solid job at appealing to kids and adults alike.
Instead of remaking the same story for a modern age, Director/Writer David Lowery crafted a completely different story for the introduction of Pete (Oakes Fegley) and Elliott the dragon. Instead of running away from a bunch of Louisiana style redneck villains, Pete is orphaned at a young age and adopted by the kindly dragon. Fast forward a few years and the town of Millhaven is about to get an introduction to creatures they thought were just myth. Logging brothers Jack (Wes Bentley) and Gavin (Karl Urban) are tearing into the forest around Millhaven and they have ticked off Jack’s girlfriend and forest ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is trying to stop the ever expanding deforestation of the land. Grace and the loggers come across Pete during the course of their day and take the boy in as best that she can. She’s naturally curious about the orphaned boy, but her father Meacham (Robert Redford) is fascinated by the story of living with a dragon for the last 6 years. It turns out he has been telling stories of meeting some dragon in the woods years and years ago, but nobody believes his tales as anything more than the stories of an old man who likes to tell tall tales.
It’s not long before Pete becomes disenfranchised with living in the world of other humans and desperately wants to go back to the forest with his old friend. Not ready to believe the truth, Grace tries to dissuade the boy, but his obvious agony compels her to at least let him show her where he lived in the forest. There Meacham, Grace and her daughter Natalie come face to face with the truth. There be dragons out there. However, Gavin has been tracking the beast for days and comes upon the reunion between Elliott and Pete only to interrupt with an attempt to capture the beast. With Elliott under wraps, Peter and his friends have only one mission. Fee Elliott before he can be harmed by the darker side of humanity.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85546[/img]While I rather like the 2016 retelling of “Peter’s Dragon”, I’m not sure that it really holds a candle to the 1977 musical. I wasn’t expecting a musical song and dance film, but there is a few things missing from the script. It feels a bit rushed and lacking in the character development department. For all of the time spend with Peter and Grace and Meacham getting to know each other, there wasn’t the loving rapport that they had back when Elliott was just a cartoon dragon in the real world. The movie also tends to cater to the “evil businesses ruining the environment” angle with Gavin being overly selfish and very capitalistic in the way he goes about his dealings, making him the proverbial “villain” by his actions. However, they didn’t make him an all-out villain. Instead he’s more of a selfish man with misdirected issues. You see the love and care he has for Grace and his brother Jack, something which stands as stark contrast to the evilness of the “villains” in the 1977 flick.
However, there is still quite a bit to love about “Pete’s Dragon”. Pete and Elliott are fantastic together, and thanks to the wonders of modern CGI there’s no need to make it an animated dragon in the middle of a live action film. Elliott’s portrayal as a furry dragon vs. something scaled and vicious looking makes him an endearing character to kids, the comradery between the young boy and the ancient beast is adorably cute. Robert Redford is a lot of fun as the slightly kooky older grandfather that was played by Mickey Rooney back 39 years ago (who sadly just died a few years back), and Bryce Dallas Howard is surprisingly effective as Grace. The weak link here was some overly clichéd script writing in regards to Elliott’s capture and Karl Urban’s overly simplistic character. I’m not even sure it’s his fault, as I like Urban quite a bit, but he just couldn’t seem to gain any real traction as a villain. He just “was”, if you know what I mean.
Rated PG for action, peril and brief language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85554[/img]Disney really knows how to make Blu-rays I’ll tell you that. They may not always deliver the extras, but their audio and video encodes for day and date releases are incredible. “Pete’s Dragon” is no different with a razor sharp encode based off of an Arri Alexa shoot and using a 2K digital intermediary for maximum quality. Colors are wildly vivid and almost saturated a bit on the hot side. The forest greens are almost neon with their vibrancy and the incredible detail to the CGI dragon is jaw dropping. You can still tell that the dragon is fake, but only because there is a sense of mild animation to the rendering of the beast with highly detailed fur and amazingly emotive eyes. Facial detail on the humans in sharp and clear, with skin tone that exceedingly natural. I did notice a flicker of crush in the cave sequence, but overall the image is just incredibly detailed and well encode form beginning to end.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=85562[/img]Like the video, the 7.1 DTS-HD MA audio is top notch for sure. Sadly there’s still no Atmos for Disney titles, but the 7.1 track is still almost reference level of good. Dialog is crisp and clear, with strong localization in the center channel, while the rest of the track teems with action. The sounds of the logging camp echoes in the rear channels, while the front soundstage is vibrant with the sound of trees crashing down or the snapping of a twig underfoot. The forest animals show great directionality as you can hear the chirping of bids shifting form one side of the room to the other, and the city dwellers have a great sense of scope in their little town. I did noticed that the track tends to be fairly conservative with the LFE, but the ending conflict starting with the tranquilizer dart showdown out in the forest really livens up that low end with some seriously weighty bass until the final moments of the trailer with Elliott and friends thwapping the air with their wings.
• Notes to Self: A Director's Diary – Director David Lowery narrates the personal diary he kept through the filming of "Pete's Dragon" in this intimate and fascinating look at the movie's making.
• Making Magic – Discover fun facts about what went into designing this spectacular, lovable dragon.
• "Disappearing" Moments – The director shares a montage of the film's "lost" scenes.
• Welcome to New Zealand – Experience the wonders of New Zealand and learn why it's a magical place to visit … and to make a movie.
• Audio Commentary – Gain an insider perspective from director David Lowery, co-writer Toby Halbrooks and actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence.
• Music Videos: "Nobody Knows" by The Lumineers & "Something Wild" by Lindsey Stirling featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
“Peter’s Dragon” is a cute little movie that works more often that it doesn’t, despite some weird hiccups along the way. I don’t think it’s best to compare this version with the 1977 film of the same name as they are really two separate films with two separate storylines that really don’t intersect much. Personally I will always hail “Peter’s Dragon” 1977 to be one of my favorite Disney live action films, but the 2016 reimagining works on its own merits rather than riding the coat tails of the original (except in name only). Disney once again gives us top notch audio and video scores with a solid array of extras to round out the picture. Worth a good rental at the very least.
Starring: Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley
Directed by: David Lowery
Written by: David Lowery, Tony Halbrooks
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 103 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 29th, 2016
Buy Pete's Dragon On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch
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