Full disclosure, I have always held a special place in my heart for the 1977 semi-animated Disney film, Pete's Dragon. And after learning that the artistic eye of indie writer/director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) would be in charge of this summer's remake, I became extremely critical of the release. Make no mistake about it, this new adaptation of Pete's Dragon deviates from the original and serves as its own film experience. Sadly, though, it loses a bit of the fun and flair that the 1977 delivered so well.
Following a tragic traffic accident that sends Pete (Oakes Fegley) off into the deep and desolate wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, he encounters a magnificent dragon named Elliot who helps provide a watchful eye over the orphaned child. Years pass and a state forest ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) discovers Pete and takes him back to the nearest town. But as she learns about his sidekick dragon, they venture back into the woods so she can meet Elliot herself.
Pete's Dragon is an overly safe effort from an artistic visionary such as David Lowery. While his direction is fine, the script revolves around a simplistic story that fails to generate the same depth as its predecessor. Buying into the film's rapidly developed family dynamic is essential, yet one dimensional characters generate more of a question mark than a connection. Moreover, the CGI dragon provides some visual spectacles that truly catch the eye. However, it was much more difficult to identify Elliot's facial expressions than the animated format which was used in the original. Also, a weak antagonist to the story leaves a gaping void in the plot that screams as the film's overall ineffectiveness. There are a few genuinely nice moments and I appreciate Lowery's bravery in taking this new version of the film in a completely different direction, but Pete's Dragon leaves a little to be desired.