Well, that certainly was… an experience…? Pete’s Dragon is that kind of movie, you need to come to terms with when it was made. Not because of anything highly inappropriate (although in some scenes the movie does get a bit darker, mainly with Pete’s hillbilly family and them looking to possibly kill him in the beginning?) but with regards to the CGI (can you even call it like that?) and how out of place the dragon feels like. And honestly, I do get it, I can’t judge this based on today’s standards, but then you realise Star Wars (1977) came out the same year and… the difference is noticeable. Putting that aside, this movie suffers from two things – it’s way too long and it’s trying really, really hard to be the next Mary Poppins (1964).
As any decent sex therapist asks, why does the length bothering you? I do understand that movie used to be shot differently, so on average, they used to be a bit longer. Which usually doesn’t bother me, if the story is captivating. But with something as simple as this, (orphan has a dragon, “hilarity” ensues) it shouldn’t be anywhere near 2 hours. And unlike my other reviews, I know exactly what could be cut – the entire hillbilly family sub-plot. They are only there at the very beginning and of course towards the end, but overall, they have no impact on the story whatsoever. Pete (and his fake dragon) could have easily just been an orphan, wondering around, looking for a new family, someplace to put his head down…? The family literally serves no purpose then to have some cheap “laughs” and extra villains. If this movie was around 90 minutes or so, it would have been much, much better.
Also, you can tell this movie suffers from identity crisis, as it’s trying so hard to replicate Mary Poppins, to re-capture the same magic. I think where it fails is… everywhere to be honest. Helen Reddy seems really nice and charming, but she’s no Julie Andrews, and even though Pete’s Dragon was made 13 (!) years after Mary Poppins, the CGI looks way worse. I am sorry, I just can’t get over it. I’ve only seen Mary Poppins once and to be honest, thought it was fairly average movie (let me assure you, it’s on my list to re-watch, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything) but I remember thinking for 1964 the graphics they had were decent. But in here, I just can’t get that over that dragon (Elliott). Again, I totally understand the thousands of hours that went into making him this way, but… yeah.
I am always wary of reviewing “a classic” movie, I did not grow up on, as I realise I am no longer the target audience for this. And that makes me wonder how would I like Pete’s Dragon, if I were to watch it when I was 5/6 years old. Would I love it? Would I still think the dragon looks bizarre? Would I still feel it’s too long? I can’t answer these questions, as until we have a time machine available, we will just never know. But, I can tell you, other movies from even before 70’s hold up really well even today. Unfortunately, Pete’s Dragon is not one of them.
Overall, if you grew up on this film, re-watch it and see for yourself whether it’s still something you enjoy. If yes, I am honestly happy for you. If not, that’s also ok, to outgrow some movies. I will watch the remake from 2016 just to see, what they have done differently and who knows? Maybe because I am lacking any emotional attachment for this version, I might actually like it…?
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,