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Running Time:
1 hr. 30 min.

Rating: PG Parental Guidance Suggested.

Rating Explanation:
for action, peril and brief language

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
This version gives the original a visual overhaul without overwhelming its sweet, soulful charm.

Additional Info:
Bryce Dallas Howard ... Grace
Robert Redford ... Meacham
Oakes Fegley ... Pete
Oona Laurence ... Natalie
Wes Bentley ... Jack
Karl Urban ... Gavin
Isiah Whitlock Jr. ... Sheriff Dentler
Marcus Henderson ... Woodrow
Aaron Jackson ... Abner
Phil Grieve ... Bobby
Steve Barr ... Deputy Smalls
Keagan Carr Fransch ... Doctor Marquez
Jade Valour ... Nurse Merriwether
Augustine Frizzell ... Mrs. Swanberg
Francis Biggs ... Mr. Swanberg

Pete's Dragon
The film begins as young Pete (Levi Alexander) loses both of his parents when their car crashes during a drive through a remote area of the Pacific Northwest. Only he survives, and wandering into the woods he’s befriended by a dragon, who shoos away the wolves threatening the boy and whisks him off to safety—and companionship. Six years later Pete (now Oakes Fegley) is living happily with the pal he calls Elliot, after the dog in the children’s book that remains his only link to the past. Elliot, in fact acts pretty much like a big mutt, despite the wings that enable him to fly, though not terribly gracefully (the landings being especially clumsy), and the ability to turn invisible.

But the pair’s idyllic existence is imperiled by encroaching loggers, headed by two brothers, the more restrained Jack (Wes Bentley) and volatile Gavin (Karl Urban) The latter, pressing deeper and deeper into the forest, comes upon their stomping ground and sets his sights on hunting down and capturing Elliot. At the same time forest ranger Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard), Jack’s fiancée, and Natalie (Oona Laurence), Jack’s eleven-year old daughter, discover Pete and bring him home to their house in Millhaven. Elliot tracks him there but sorrowfully goes back to the forest after seeing that the boy has found a human family. When Pete describes his erstwhile companion as a dragon, however, Grace contacts her father (Robert Redford), the only person who ever glimpsed him before, and he joins Pete, Grace and Natalie to find him again. Unfortunately, they’re trailed by Gavin and his men, who capture the critter. The finale revolves around efforts to free Elliot, as well as the question of where Pete and his dragon will ultimately wind up.

This scenario clearly breaks no new ground, but it’s the manner of telling, not the plot, that’s important here. The story here has  a cheery, almost sedate tastefulness, dropping in offhanded humorous moments whenever possible. Bryce Dallas Howard and Wes Bentley are both a bit bland, youngsters Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence are both likable, and Robert Redford lends his grizzled authority to lines about magic that might well have sounded hollow if delivered by somebody else. The look of the film is rather subdued as well; the cinematography luxuriates in the New Zealand locations, but in mostly dusky, green-brown tones (apart from the sweeping helicopter shots depicting Elliot in flight), and as a result the darkening effect of 3D isn’t quite as harmful here as it is in most brighter-colored films.

Pete’s Dragon is somewhat of an anomaly among today’s big-budget studio offerings: an expensive film that retains the feel of a personal one, something that’s hand-crafted rather than coming off the assembly line. Though it takes advantage of modern technology. Whether that will speak to today’s kids is an open question. But, if it doesn’t, it will be their loss.

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