• by Wes Singleton

Pete's Dragon, B

Rated PG, 103 minutes

The cute but cheesy 1977 Disney film "Pete's Dragon" is hardly a classic, but still memorable to many of us who may have seen it as a kid. The warm, heart-tugging and non-musical reboot of "Pete's Dragon" is a vast improvement over the original, even if that may not take too much to do. In the Pacific Northwest United States, forest ranger Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds a young boy named Pete (Oakes Fegley) who lived in the woods for six years with a mysterious dragon named Elliott. With help from her wood-carver father (Robert Redford) and Natalie (Oona Laurence), the daughter of lumber mill owner Jack (Wes Bentley), Grace sets out to find out Pete's identity and the truth about Elliott. But problems arise when hunter Gavin (Karl Urban), Jack's brother and Natalie's uncle, plans to capture Elliott. Directed and co-written by Dallas native David Lowery ("Ain't Them Bodies Saints"), "Pete's Dragon" is entertaining, uplifting and features some slick CGI visuals that enhances the film's more poignant moments. Based loosely on the original film, it bares scant resemblance to the 1977 film, but those younger than Gen X-ers will likely not remember that anyway (and the fact that the film's song, "Candle on the Water," was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song, and sung by none other than 1970's musical icon Helen Reddy). The touching, breakout turn from newcomer Oakes Fegley ("Boardwalk Empire") as Pete, along with the warm chemistry with the film's chief visual, Elliott the green dragon, is the film's main highlight, not to mention the film's easy-going tone. A couple of minor annoyances: Elliott is portrayed in clumsy, canine form, and little insight is given to his backstory as to where and how he arrived in the forest. Also, perhaps to give a timeless feel to the story, Lowery doesn't exactly identify the time the story is set in, but clues will tell you (vehicles and personal style) that it's likely somewhere in the early to mid-1980's. Though the original film came before, "E.T.," it's also easy to see a familiar resemblance to that story, but this folksy tale, with Oscar-winner Redford as a nice addition and "Star Trek's" Urban playing another of his gruff but softy fellas, easily stands on it's own feet. The enjoyably folksy, affecting fantasy tale "Pete's Dragon" is a worthy escape for late-summer movie viewing, and perfect family entertainment.

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