By Cynthia Biddlecomb
“Pete’s Dragon” is a Disney live action movie that opened Aug. 12.
Like its predecessor, an animated feature in 1977, it features a 10-year-old lost boy and the (CGI-animated) furry dragon who protects him during the six years he’s in the deep forest. It is a family drama appropriate for elementary aged kids up through adults. Nobody dies, but there is some heartbreak, and scary situations for little kids. The movie opens with Pete in the back seat of his parents’ station wagon as they go on a camping adventure.
Five-year-old Pete is reading his favorite book, “Elliot Gets Lost”, sounding the familiar words out loud. Suddenly a deer leaps in front of the car, Dad veers to the right and you see a surprised Pete in the middle of a car that is rolling, stuff flying around him.
You hear him whimper for his parents. You see him outside the car, gathering his backpack and the book and walking away. The car crash is not graphic, nor do you see his parents dead. There is no need to show that. Almost immediately, wolves surround little Pete and we fear for his life. But quite suddenly, the wolves are scared away… by a huge dragon.
The encounter of Pete and the dragon is moving, but not sugary sweet. Curiosity is won over by mutual trust. We meet Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) at the home of her dad, Meacham (Robert Redford). Meacham is considered strange since the day he tried to tell people he had met a dragon in the forest.
Grace is a forest ranger, walking the forest every day. She has never believed her father’s story. We learn that she is engaged to a lumber mill owner named Jack (Wes Bentley). Living safely in a cave at the base of an old growth tree, which he has improved with tree house platforms, Pete and the dragon, whom he has named Elliot, have a happy existence.
They frolick in the forest, Pete chases rabbits, a bear threatens Pete then gets scared away by Elliot. One day Pete sees Grace in the forest and is reminded of his mother. Grace doesn’t see him. I should mention that Elliot has magical powers. Not only can he change color and blend into the scenery, he can also turn invisible.
This helps when humans try to find him later in the film. These elements give us the story. Which will Pete choose when given the chance, continuing to live with Elliot or with the new family Grace and Jack offer? Jack’s daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence), close to Jack’s age, liked him immediately. It is worth it to see how Pete’s story evolves. What will be the value of family to him or to each character?
The story is touching. Perhaps you will shed a tear, as I did. Take the kids if necessary, but do take yourself. This ultimately-feel-good movie is rated “PG for action, peril and brief language” and just as good in 2D as it is in 3D.