For Reel

Pete’s Dragon (2016)
October 2, 2016, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David Lowery
3.5 Stars
petes-dragonWithin the first five minutes of Pete’s Dragon, the six-year-old Pete (Levi Alexander) survives a car crash, a near-attack by hungry wolves, and a confrontation with an enormous fire-breathing creature of  ancient legend. That the film treats these moments with a sense of detached wonder—the car crash is seen as strangely beautiful—shows a perplexing innocence in the way that children cope with the unknown. Elliot, the dragon, is only seen as horrifying by the adults who tell stories about it—to Pete (the older version played by Oakes Fegley), it’s an overgrown puppy. As showy as the film’s special effects are, this underlying innocence harmonizes with a surprising avoidance of sensationalist indulgences. The real moments of awe involve the one-sided conversations between Pete and Elliot, often sandwiched between lovely montages set to folk music. If the film betrays this sensibility at all, it happens with the appearance of Karl Urban’s hunter—a routine villain who only distracts and diminishes the inevitable drama of Pete and Elliot realizing that they both need to let go. But the film is largely about nostalgia and wonder, with the endless scenes of frolicking in the woods detailing just what it feels like to imagine and, more immediately, to attempt to make sense out of the world.

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