Saturday, September 3, 2016

Note to parents/grandparents: Take the kids to see Disney's fine PETE'S DRAGON remake

Been meaning to post on this one since we saw it (with our grandkids) opening weekend. It is a wonderful film, but I remember when I first heard that its director was to be David Lowery -- the filmmaker who gave us Ain't Them Bodies Saints -- my initial thought was him?! Well, "him" has done simply a splendid job of making a kids' movie that adults may love even more than the children they accompany to the theater. Within the first few minutes of the movie, Lowery shows he is perfectly in command of story and style, giving us a loss so fraught in such a beautiful, sad and delicate manner, you'll be holding your breath, first in shock and then in wonderment.

The film captures the loss of parents in a child's life as well as anything I've seen since Bambi (and that, of course, involved anthropomorphized animals as stand-ins). From loss we go almost immediately to the wonder, and Lowery (at left) and his team have created a dragon so special and amazing (note his chipped tooth/fang, below) that he'll be a keeper in yours and your kids' minds probably as long as you are able to retain any movie memories. The decision to give the big guy fur instead of scales help turn him into a kind of precious pet.

We're dealing with a primal theme here -- enormous loss and how to cope -- and Lowery manages both the reality and the fantasy with aplomb and finesse. His family scenes sparkle and charm but also carry requisite weight, while the fantasy is by turns spectacular, exciting and full of delight. There are some scares -- something no kids' movie should be without: they love these -- but nothing too strong to harm.

In the cast are two excellent child actors -- Oakes Fegley (above, right), adorable and winning as Pete; and Oona Laurence (above, left), who was so amazing in Lamb -- and both excel.

In the roles of the adults who surround them, the movie provides equally fine actors -- from Robert Redfrord (above, center), as the old codger who once had a run-in with this same dragon, and Bryce Dallas Howard (above, left) as the helpful forest ranger,

to Wes Bentley (above, left) and Karl Urban (above, right) as a pair of good/bad brothers who provide help/harm to our heroes little and big.

Lowery, who co-wrote/adapted the screenplay with Toby Halbrooks, never talks down to either the kids or us adults. You can sit back and drink it all in without fear of being somehow "reduced." This is how to make a children's film gleam and resonate; one hopes that it proves a kind of model for a new direction in Disney live action.

Pete's Dragon continues to play screens nationwide. Click here to access the web site, then click on Get Tickets to find the theater nearest you. 

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