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Monday, August 22, 2016

[GUEST] Pete's Dragon Movie Review

GUEST WRITER: Don Shanahan is a fellow Chicago film critic of "Every Movie Has a Lesson." He is an elementary school teacher who writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. Don is one of the directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Association (CIFCC). Please welcome him as a new contributor to Eman's Movie Reviews.

The Trailer:

The Good:
Any comparisons to the 1977 original favorite end with the names Pete, Elliot, and the notion of a hairy green dragon. Divergent choices are made by introspective and naturalistic director David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) and his debuting fellow screenwriter Toby Halbrooks to create something that, finally and refreshingly, lives up the “re-imagining” and “improvement” labels with common people, deeper family dynamics, and stronger bonds of loyalty.

From top to bottom, the rustic tone, look, and feel of the film is incredibly prudent and befitting its folk tale transformation into a living myth. The New Zealand locations captured by Bojan Bazelli’s camera are wide and majestic for scope while still maintaining an intimacy to carve out a nestled home for a little boy and his wild companion. The special effects to create Elliot are clean, modest, and never garish. Lindsey Stirling’s electric violin solos back a genteel musical score from composer Daniel Hart. The performances step right in to match the pastoral tone with a constant moral influence. Unlike the trappings of the more glamorous Disney remakes, “Pete’s Dragon” is free of lame sidekicks, loud comic relief, and other wasteful and mismatched ingredients.

The Bad

It's awfully difficult to find a major flaw.  If anything, it' is intense for the very young.  The stirring emotions can hit Pixar-level hard, making “Pete’s Dragon” much more suitable for ages 8 and up. Theatre ushers better come with equipped with arms ready for hugs and mops instead of brooms for the puddles of empathetically shed tears that will be waiting for them when the audience departs.

The Reason

“Pete’s Dragon.” It is the most poignant live-action Disney film since 2007’s “Bridge to Terabithia” and the closest any Walt Disney Pictures film has come in a long time to matching the signature emotional “Pixar Punch” of its animation brethren. The film stands as an example Disney would be wise to emulate moving forward with their future “re-imaginings” (take note, “Beauty and the Beast”). 

Blooming out of a cradle of artistic and narrative perseverance, it is clear a philosophy of great care and pleasant patience was given to “Pete’s Dragon” by Lowery and company. The film enhances the magical charm audiences remember from the original with newly gained maturity to operate as a loving family drama and touching adventure of friendship. It is a welcome and calming addition of heft painted by that superb idyllic tone. The wonderment never overplays its moments.

The Rating:  9.5/10

My [Loosely based] Ratings scale
10-9 = A Must watch at any cost. 
8.5- 7.5 = Theater worthy 
7-6.5 = Matinee/rental worthy at best
6 = Watchable (If it's free)
5 - below = Avoid at all costs

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