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With: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford
Written by: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks, based on a screenplay by Malcolm Marmorstein and on a story by Seton I. Miller, S.S. Field
Directed by: David Lowery
MPAA Rating: PG for action, peril and brief language
Running Time: 103
Date: 08/12/2016

Pete's Dragon (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dragon Players

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A remake of the 1977 movie, a musical that combined live-action and animation, this new Pete's Dragon is something else: like Steven Spielberg's already-underrated The BFG, it's a gentle, whimsical tale, focusing on wonder in an age when most kids' movies focus on noise and movement. It begins with one of those car-ride scenes that can only end in a crash, but director David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) handles it well, with discreet cutting. This leaves young Pete stranded in the woods alone, rescued and cared for by a kindly dragon (his big front feet look like soft, cuddly bean-bag chairs). Six years later, Pete (Oakes Fegley) has been raised apart from any humans; one day he spies a forest ranger, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), and becomes curious. Before long, he has been "rescued," but Grace's soon-to-be brother-in-law, a lumber man, Gavin (Karl Urban), has seen the dragon and sets out to capture it.

Robert Redford plays a delightful old codger who saw the dragon once, long ago, and cheerfully tells the local kids stories, though no one believes him. And Wes Bentley plays Grace's fiancee, though it struck me that the movie might have been better served with the severe-looking Bentley in the Gavin role and the warmer Urban in the fiancee role, but that's a small quibble. Another small quibble is the ending, which seems a bit soft-pedaled (or back-pedaled). Yet, despite the plot involving captures, chases, and escapes, the movie never feels frantic or hyperactive. It's the kind of movie they used to call an "escape." Best of all, it has a kind of magic spell that makes you genuinely want to believe in dragons.

Disney's Blu-ray release looks and sounds fine, and includes a bonus DVD and a digital copy. It comes with a commentary track by director David Lowery, co-writer Toby Halbrooks, and actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence, plus several short behind-the-scenes featurettes, two music videos, and bloopers.

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