Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Director: David Lowery
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban & Robert Redford
Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Reimagining the classic 1977 original, Pete’s Dragon finds the titular child (Oakes Fegley, This Is Where I Leave You) fending for himself in the wilderness following the tragic death of his parents. Befriending an enormous green dragon, Pete’s unconventional upbringing is interrupted by fearful lumberjacks and the prospect of being apart of a family once again. Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), Wes Bentley (Interstellar), Karl Urban (Star Trek Beyond) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) co-star.
Substituting the musical DNA of its Mickey Rooney starring predecessor, Pete’s Dragon refocuses its whimsical tale as an intimate family-driven drama concerning loss, love and magic. Set in the 1980s while maintaining an otherwise timeless tone, Director David Lowery’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) story about a boy and his dragon charmingly tugs at the heart strings of viewers from young Pete’s initial introduction to the lovable Elliot through their shattering separation following local lumberjacks fearfully capturing the winged creature. After several years of living off the land side by side his fantastical companion, Pete encounters Park Ranger Grace Meacham (Howard) who, after a failed escape from local wilderness men, is retrieved from the sprawling woods and cared for in the neighboring town. Anxious to reunite with Elliot, Pete is embraced by Grace, her boyfriend Jack and soon-to-be stepdaughter Natalie (Oona Laurence, Southpaw) while, Jack’s disgruntled brother Gavin (Urban) seeks to capture the creature he’s certain he saw. Conflicted by the support offered by Grace’s family and his love for Elliot, Pete is emotionally tested once more after Gavin’s ruthless recovery of the dragon into town forces him to question his standing amongst the frantic townspeople. Aided by those closest to him including Grace’s dragon believing father (Redford), the resourceful boy embarks on a spirited mission to free his best friend.
Exceptionally achieved through the computer-generated wizardry of Weta Digital (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar), Elliot’s furry and big-eyed presence is breathtakingly realistic, allowing viewers young and old to easily suspend any and all disbelief. Taking much creative license with its source material, Pete’s Dragon adheres to the general structure of what came before with its dramatically heavier narrative, winsome performances and picturesque New Zealand shooting locations enhancing its more magical touches. Provided with a wonderfully earthy score by Composer Daniel Hart (Tumbledown), Pete’s Dragon, although a comparatively quieter effort next to Disney’s other tentpole summer blockbusters, is enchantingly saccharine and ably continues the quality of the Mouse House’s other reinterpreted features.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Pete’s Dragon with a healthy 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Boasting natural skin tones and highlighting the luscious greenery of its New Zealand filming locations, black levels seen in shadowy shades and Elliot’s dark cave are impressively inky while, the digital rendering of Pete’s dragon is exceptionally detailed allowing viewers to fully appreciate the intricacies of his green fur. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is handsomely handled with the utmost clarity while, the ambiance of the wilderness provides subtle yet effecting statements. In addition, the powerful whips of wind from Elliot’s wings give appropriate rise to the film’s many flying sequences while, the ethereal sounds of Daniel Hart’s music blankets the feature in glorious fantasy bliss. Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director David Lowery, Co-Writer Toby Halbrooks and Actors Oakes Fegley & Oona Laurence, Notes to Self: A Director’s Diary (7:31) offers a personal look into Lowery’s intimate passages kept throughout production, intertwined with onset footage and interviews from the cast. Furthermore, Making Magic (2:12) is a brief featurette exploring the visual design and characteristics implemented in bringing Elliot to life while, “Disappearing” Moments: Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes (9:12) and Bloopers (1:28) are also included. Finally, the “Nobody Knows” Music Video by The Lumineers (3:12), the “Something Wild” Music Video by Lindsey Stirling featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (3:45), a Welcome to New Zealand Promo (1:56) and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), the Disney Conservation Fund (1:02), a Disney Vacations Promo (1:32), Elena of Avalor (0:32) and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) conclude the disc’s supplemental package while, a DVD edition and Digital HD are also provided.
A modest sleeper hit that enchanted audiences while moving many to tears, Pete’s Dragon is a magical coming-of-age tale that warmly continues Disney’s recent streak of reinterpretations for a new generation. Charmed with a remarkable high-definition presentation and a moderate spread of bonus features including an audio commentary from the filmmakers and select cast members, Pete’s Dragon deserves to fly under many a Christmas trees this holiday season.
Available November 29th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Pete’s Dragon can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.