Pete’s Dragon Blu-Ray Review

Pete's Dragon Blu-Ray Review
4.5Overall Score

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Despite complaints that original ideas seem few and far between these days, the remake has been prevalent in cinema since its inception. Remakes can actually offer a considerable venue for creative expression, and can vary wildly from shot-by-shot recreations or a complete and total reimagining of a classic story. Disney, known around the world for their animation studios, have begun remaking many of their beloved classics. Cinderella and The Jungle Book are two of their most recent efforts, with Beauty and the Beast planned for release this year and Mulan scheduled for 2018. As these were all massively successful animated films, it is somewhat of a shock to see the company choose Pete’s Dragon – an overlong, 70s musical that paired live action actors with an animated dragon. Opting for the unconventional, Disney chose David Lowery, who had something of a breakout hit with the indie film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints in 2013, to direct. Lowery, who also penned the screenplay with Toby Halbrooks, pulls off a remarkable feat – transforming a hokey, largely forgotten musical into one of 2016’s greatest surprises.

Thriving on its simplicity, Pete’s Dragon tells the story of a five-year-old boy named Pete (Oakes Fegley), who, after a tragic accident, is left alone in the woods. Helpless and unable to survive by himself, he is rescued and raised by Elliot, an enormous, green dragon. Years later, Pete discovers a crew cutting down trees near his home, and gets discovered by Natalie (Oona Laurence). After a series of mishaps, Pete is taken into the custody of Natalie’s father Jack (Wes Bentley) and girlfriend, forest ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). Despite their newfound separation, Elliot and Pete embark on a quest to be reunited.

From its stunning opening scene, Pete’s Dragon establishes itself as an impressive feat. It is such a sincerely honest, warm, and touching film. Refusing to bog down the film with unnecessary and unfulfilling subplots, Lowery and Halbrooks focus almost entirely on Pete and Elliot, which allows the film to have a hugely effecting emotional core. Never boring, the film moves forward effortlessly. Lowery directs with such remarkable emotional sincerity that it almost feels like a film from another time entirely, before things like product placement plagued our screens.

petes2Featuring a vibrant video and balanced, crisp audio presentation, Disney has once again delivered a top-notch home video release. Along with its wonderful a/v presentation, there is a nice collection of special features. Most impressive is the commentary track with Director David Lowery, co-writer Toby Halbrooks and lead actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence. It’s a lovely, family friendly track that is both informative and humorous. Also included are deleted scenes, music videos, bloopers and some brief looks behind the scenes.

Although sequels and remakes certainly provide opportunities for creativity, it’s difficult to shake the idea that most of them in today’s filmmaking environment are anything more than a cash-grab. Pete’s Dragon, then, feels something like a miracle. Sharing its title with the original music and virtually nothing else, the film is an amazingly fresh and genuine experience. Vastly superior to the original, the film embraces classic storytelling and features an enchanting score courtesy of Daniel Hart, and gorgeous cinematography from Bojan Bazelli. Thanks to an equally impressive Blu-ray from Disney, this is an absolute must-own, not only for Disney fans, but for those longing for cinema of a bygone era.

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