When I found out the Center Theater in Dover-Foxcroft, ME, had booked Pete’s Dragon while I was there, I have to admit I was quite excited. I don’t know why.
Despite three kids (two came later) and a well-used VCR back in the late 70s, I had absolutely no idea what the movie was about. I remembered Helen Reddy was one of the stars – she played Nora – and there was this not so frightful animated dragon Elliot. But that’s about all I remember about the original. I didn’t remember the plot. I couldn’t give you a synopsis.
But I knew I had to watch the reboot. So, with the tune Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul and Mary – I know, I know, wrong dragon – swirling in my head, I trudged across the street, paid my admission and settled in to watch the “new” Pete’s Dragon.
I wasn’t disappointed. Disney tastefully crafted a nice little tale that flowed well and kept my younger audience mates glued to the screen.
My son asked me if the remake was as good as the original. It’s a question I really can’t answer. But it was good enough to take his kids to see.
Our new Pete (Oakes Fegley) was orphaned at age five when Mom and Dad died in a car crash in the middle of the forest. Of course, he was taken in by a friendly magical dragon with a pronounced chipped tooth he names Elliott after the puppy in a book he was reading at the time of the fateful accident. They live together for the next six years or so, with Elliot playing with and taking care of Pete. Presumably, Pete has little if any contact with the civilized world. He is content in his magical world.
In the story line, Pete is “found” by 11 year Natalie (Oona Laurence), who chases Pete through the forest. She, of course, climbs and summarily falls from a tree, her screams attracting her father Jack (Wes Bentley) and his girlfriend, Park Ranger Grace Meacham ((Bryce Dallas Howard). Pete tries to run away, but Gavin (Karl Urban), Jack’s brother, accidentally knocks him unconscious and the boy is brought to the hospital for an evaluation. Pete wakes up and escapes in an effort to return to the forest. Before the police can catch him, Grace finds Pete and convinces him to come live with her by promising to take him to the forest the next day. After receiving a drawing of Elliot from him, Grace takes it to her father, Lampie (Robert Redford) who liked to tell stories about a mythical dragon he discovered as a young man.
After “returning” to civilization, Pete howls and jumps over things and is somewhat tamed only by Natalie.
Meanwhile, Gavin, who sits on his brains, figures he can show up big brother by capturing this dragon and he and his mighty band do just that with tranquilizer darts. Of course, they don’t know what to do with it after they capture Elliot, so they tie him to a flatbed trailer and bring him back to the lumberyard.
Pete and Natalie set out to free Elliott in a convoluted scheme that includes stealing him with Lampie behind the wheel.
In the “action” part of the movie, Gavin sets up a roadblock at the bridge to stop them. A failed attempt to fly by a still groggy Elliot damages the truck’s brakes, causing the truck to plow through the barricade and come to a stop at the other side. Confused and frightened, Elliot perches himself atop the bridge and starts breathing fire at police. The bridge begins to collapse under the intense heat, causing Grace and Jack’s truck to fall through. Elliot tries to prop them up, but the bridge suddenly gives way and they all fall into the ravine. At the last second, Elliot emerges with Grace and Jack on his back. With a military helicopter approaching, Pete decides to flee with Elliot back to the woods.
Pete pleads with Elliot to stay with him, but the dragon concludes as long as they stay close together, Pete will always be in danger. He points out Pete’s book to try and convince him to go back to Grace and Jack. After a tearful hug, Elliot returns to the mountains, while Pete goes to live with Grace and Jack.
The movie is neatly wrapped with Grace and Jack getting married and adopting Pete as their son. Elliot slowly fades from the town’s memory.
Nevertheless, Pete and his family find him while on vacation. It seems Elliot had a reunion as well … with his fellow dragons.
I don’t know if Elliot was reunited with his dragon “family” back in 1977. I do know, if this is the same Elliot (“a dragon lives forever, but no so little boys” – sorry, I told you it was in my head), he migrated cross country from New England to the Pacific Northwest. And I was told in the original, Elliot had some purple flakes in his fur.
My only critique was continuity. I mean, when we first find Pete he’s a five year old boy with a limited vocabulary. Six years later with no schooling and no verbal communication with Elliot or the outside world, he seemed to fare quite well in town. Sounds like a kid’s fairy tale – street (forest) smarts and book smarts and no classrooms.
I would give it four out of five stars.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What if we replaced racism, hate, jealousy and pride with love.