Pete’s Dragon (2016) Parent Review
This well-crafted movie is an entertaining ride that offers positive role models, strong family ties and the importance of good friends.
What is an adventure? Is it scary? These are among the questions asked by five-year-old Pete (Oakes Fegley) as he sits reading aloud from the picture book “Elliot Gets Lost” in the back seat of his parents’ station wagon while they make their way down a secluded road. Then things take a turn for the worse. A devastating car accident (not shown on screen) leaves the child orphaned and alone in the woods with wolves howling all around him. Trying to be brave, the young boy does his best to summon his courage as the snarling animals close in. Suddenly their plan to have Pete for supper is interrupted by a fierce growling coming from the nearby trees. As the predators whimper away, a terrified Pete watches and waits for the source of the sound to appear. Is it a bear? A cougar? No… It’s a huge dragon! The imposing creature emerges from the shadows revealing coarse fur and an impressive set of leathery wings. Still, it seems more curious than hostile as it approaches. Almost instantly a magical bond forms between the lost child and the gentle, green giant.
Six years pass and the unlikely companions are as close as can be. Sharing a cave, the colossal creature (now affectionately known as Elliot) and the growing boy play and explore in the wilderness all day and spend their evenings around a small fire. Yet everything changes when Pete sees another human in the forest. First he catches a glimpse of a woman putting marks on some of the trees. The next day, a strange sound alerts him to her return. This time she has in tow a crew of chainsaw-wielding workers and some arguing men. Enthralled, Pete watches from a distance until he notices the group also includes a young girl. And she spots him too.
Unfortunately, Pete’s craving for human contact leads to him being captured and taken back to civilization. Here, forest ranger Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard), her fiancé Jack (Wes Bentley) and his daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) try to figure out where the feral child came from. Meanwhile back in the woods, Elliot discovers that his friend is missing. But almost immediately his efforts to find his pal are hampered by a new struggle with the loggers. What neither Pete nor Elliot realize yet is that the loyalty of friendship is about to be tested against the powerful pull of family and belonging.
This well-crafted movie is an entertaining ride that offers positive role models (including a strong female lead), a not entirely “bad” guy and a subtle message about preserving the environment. Family ties are on full display here, with almost all of the primary supporting characters being related. Robert Redford is especially memorable playing Grace’s father, a grizzled but kind and loving woodcarver who believes Pete’s story. Elliot is a wonderfully rendered CGI character who manages to inspire awe without being frightening, easily conveys emotion and comes across as a playful, dog-like chum.
Although visually appealing and exciting, parents should be aware that some of the activities shown in the movie could be potentially dangerous if attempted in real life. Pete climbs very tall trees, jumps off cliffs (only to be caught and spirited skyward by Elliot), escapes out of windows, runs through traffic, and hangs on to a moving school bus. Little ones may also be upset when Elliot is chased, shot with tranquilizer darts and restrained by a rope around his neck. Other concerns include depictions of fiery breaths that cause property damage.
The film’s soundtrack and humor add to the feeling that this production is a throwback to the clean, fun, feel-good Disney movies of days gone by. Although some of script may feel a bit recycled to more experienced moviegoers, the 2016 Pete’s Dragon still presents an upbeat, thrilling, and engaging adventure the entire family won’t soon forget.Directed by David Lowery. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley. Theatrical release August 12, 2016. Updated November 28, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Pete’s Dragon (2016) here.
Pete’s Dragon (2016) Parents Guide
The film places a strong emphasis on belonging, both in Pete’s yearning for a human family and in Elliot’s desire to find his way back to his own kind. Despite being drawn in seemingly opposite directions, the two are able to love and support each other even though they come from completely separate worlds. How can we show similar compassion and acceptance for others who may be different from ourselves?
Mr. Meacham suggests there are things in the woods Grace may have missed seeing—simply because she didn’t take the time to look for them. What kinds of things might you be overlooking? How can we make the time in our lives to slow down and “experience the magic” that may be waiting for us in unexpected places?