Review : Pete’s Dragon

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It’s not easy being green…

So think ET with a bit of How To Train your Dragon dragon’y stuff. Then give it a newish director in David Flowery, he’s made some indie films. Add a cast who have been in Butch Cassidy, Jurassic World, Star Trek and Interstellar… suddenly this could be an interesting proposition.

A Mowgli style kid is stranded tragically in the woods,reared and taught to survive by a big green friendly dragon. Once Mowgli and eventually Pete are discovered, how will the wider world cope with these two, and they with it ? This is Sunday afternoon style story telling that takes its’ time.

Kids movies are generally now’a’days a product to be monetised. Merchandise, tie in a flavour of the month artist with a hit / hot song, make it look like you’ve a design and animation team who’ve been fuelled with a large quantity of Redbull,  and “presto” – the latest kids / family animation !

If you go to the cinema as an adult to watch one of these films and get time to catch the trailers, the different variations of the above are all coming soon – brighter, more colourful, faster edited, with more pop songs, and often look fairly similar…

Thank you Pete’s Dragon and excellent The BFG for rejecting this trend. In Mr Spielberg with BFG we know we can expect something half decent, but with Pete’s Dragon this could easily have been predictable and lazy. 

Well let me tell you that it feels a bit Spielberg’ian, like a proper afternoon at the cinema. It has effects, a large CGI dragon, but it is more interested in the set up, characters and emotion, and how these all come together to tell this tale. This is why ET was so good. Referring back to BFG, this is the superior film in the more experienced and well funded Spielberg hands, but this dragon and it’s cohort flower under the direction of David Flowery. No child or adult actors are memorably good, but all are solid, as is Pete who is really nicely imagined.

The film stand on it’s own two large back feet, with a worthy cast, worthy effects, and a story that will make anyone with an emotional IQ engage fairly early on. It’s not ET, and if you have to choose between seeing this or The BFG – see the BFG. This is lovely stuff though. It won’t go down in the history books, but it is an enchanting use of 1hour and 43 mins. It is fit for the big screen if you are looking for a family friendly option in a cinema trip anytime soon, but isn’t so cinematic that you will be depriving yourself if you were to see it on a smaller screen later.  

On reflection, catch BFG in the cinema first and foremost, but lets’s not steal the dragons fire – it’s still an occasional blast. 7/10 – Jez Gibson