Director David Lowery brings the timeless Disney tale Pete’s Dragon back to the big screen with groundbreaking visual effects that’ll enchant a whole new generation of viewers.
Pete’s Dragon is a quintessential Disney film to the core with all the usual trappings of family, love, and magic at its heart. There’s a real timelessness to its setting and production, and this adds to its nostalgic feel, recapturing the same spirit of classic Disney pictures.
Lowrey’s film is packed out with a terrific cast lead by Bryce Dallas Howard as the courageous and loving forest ranger Grace Meacham, a woman who has dedicated her life to protecting Millhaven’s forest. Howard has come a long way since 2004’s The Village, and here she gets to play the mother figure to a lost boy named Pete, and his best friend Elliot. There’s a real warmth to Howard’s performance and audiences will easily pick up on her maternal force as Grace.
Howard is joined by Wes Bently and Karl Urban as brothers Jack and Gavin, and while Bentley plays Jack as a responsible parent and upstanding Millhaven citizen, Urban’s Gavin couldn’t be more different as an opportunistic hunter whose first instinct is to hunt down Elliot. Both actors share a real chemistry with one another, and as a credit to their talent it’s extremely easy to feel the tension in their sibling rivalry.
Rounding out the cast is Hollywood legend Robert Redford, who brings a sense of sage-like wisdom as woodcarver and story teller Mr. Meacham, father to Grace and a man who shares a history with Elliot. Redford lends his considerable gravitas to the story and provides a sense of reason to the wonder, and an acceptance and understanding of the magic that is unwinding around the town of Millhaven. It’s great to see an acting elder statesmen like Redford step into the role of a wise grandfatherly figure, and he really pulls it off.
But if this film belongs to anyone then it’s definitely newcomer Oakes Fegley as the precocious Pete, a foundling who has survived the woods of Millhaven thanks to his friendship with the magical dragon. Fegley is utterly convincing as the wild child Pete, and his love for Elliot is completely heartfelt.
Pete’s Dragon is also an exercise in visual spectacle thanks to the geniuses at Weta Digital, who have brought to life a living, breathing and flying natural wonder in the magnificent Elliot. Not a second goes by where you don’t think Elliot looks like the real deal, which is a testament to the talented artisans who have captured the quintessential sense of humour and natural animalistic curiosity that makes Elliot such a lovable character.