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[FILM REVIEW] Pete’s Dragon

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Title: Pete’s Dragon

Director: David Lowery

Writers: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks, Malcolm Marmorstein

Stars: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley

Release Date: In cinemas now.

Review by: Dave Griffiths

It must be an excellent time to be a kid at the moment, especially if you’re one that is into cinema. One of the biggest surprises in the movie world this year was just how good Steven Spielberg’s The BFG was. Now I’m pleased to say that another big family film of 2016 also delivers the goods – yes Pete’s Dragon is one of those films that adults are going to enjoy as a guilty pleasure.

In this modern update of the Disney classic Pete (Oakes Fegley – This Is Where I Leave You) is left stranded in the woods after a car accident tragically claims the lives of his parents. While he instantly comes under attack from some wolves, he is rescued by a kind-hearted dragon that he names Elliott. Flash forward six years and Pete is happy with his life in the woods with Elliott. But their woods are under attack as a logging company run by Jack (Wes Bentley – The Hunger Games) reaches further into the forest, especially considering that his gung-ho brother, Gavin (Karl Urban – Dredd) disobeys warnings and just wants the job done a lot faster. Their actions soon lead to Jack’s fiancée, a local Park Ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard – Jurassic World) discovering Pete. She delves into his story and is faced with the prospect that perhaps her father’s (Robert Redford – Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid) stories of dragons in the woods are not just a fable.

Some might scoff, but there are very few films out this year that you will enjoy as much as Pete’s Dragon. This one felt like it had flashed back in time and captured that magic that films like E.T. and The Never Ending Story did back when we were kids. Somehow director, David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) not only captures that old school cinematic magic but also brings this film into modern times with some amazing CGI and cinematography that captures New Zealand’s landscape.

Perhaps the reason that Pete’s Dragon works so well is that if you’ve been a fan of Lowery’s work over the years, you’ll know that he is a director that likes to tell a character story. You get the feeling that if this film had been in the hands of a director like Peter Jackson it would have become a CGI-driven film and ended up being just another blockbuster. Instead Lowery makes this a movie that explores Pete’s story and a touch of Grace’s, and the result is a film that draws its audience in and makes them feel part of these character’s lives. Yes CGI is needed to make Elliott come to life, but Lowery doesn’t rest all of his laurels on this film being a visual spectacular which it is anyway.

Unlike a lot of blockbusters, these days Pete’s Dragon calls for its cast to act and the result is a beautiful performance from Bryce Dallas Howard who is well supported by Wes Bentley and Karl Urban despite the latter having a little bit of a clichéd role. The real stars here though are Oona Laurence (Southpaw) and Oakes Fegley who produce performances well and truly above their ages.

Pete’s Dragon is one of the genuine surprises of 2016. This heartfelt, warm film beautifully tells this classic tale and is the kind of movie that you want to watch over and over. It looks spectacular and is made up of a modern day re-telling that works for its story and enhances it instead of against it. Make sure you don’t miss Pete’s Dragon – this is a movie that you have to see on the big screen.

5 Stars

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