The Jungle Book was a fantastic new take on the classic story, mixing the charm of the animated version with the darker, bloodier material of the original tale. Cinderella was an enchanting redevelopment of the character and her relationship with her beloved prince. Beauty and the Beast was a warped attempt to both mimic the animated classic and expand on it at the same time, and it came out as enjoyable but ultimately unoriginal and mediocre, I think. Maleficent was enjoyable and certainly took things in a new direction, but the plot and characters suffered from a brutish feminist agenda. Alice in Wonderland deserves a bit more credit than it gets, I think, for the story it tells, for the characters and themes, etc. and I enjoyed it immensely (I have not seen Alice Through the Looking Glass).
Like ’em, love ’em, or hate ’em, Disney’s live-action remakes have generally been fun, well-crafted, and added something interesting to the discussion.
(heck, even the 2003 Peter Pan by Universal Pictures was a fresh retelling of the animated classic, much like Jungle Book)
Pete’s Dragon, by comparison, kind of falls flat. Like, “Meh. Whatever. Nothing special.” Only it’s not only “not special,” it’s actually pretty boring. Which, considering the subject material includes an orphaned boy surviving in the forest with a dragon guarding him until he’s found by a lady deputy who takes him in like one of her own and learns alongside an entire town about the magic of life and the reality of dragons… “boring” is something of an achievement.
I wasn’t able to see it theaters, and now I’m actually rather glad about that. I finally saw it over the holidays, and I gotta say, I could probably have gone without ever seeing it.
Now, I don’t want to make it sound like there’s nothing good about this remake. The CGI dragon is amazing, the scenery is stunning, the cinematography is very well done, the music is nothing short of beautiful, and I do like the characters. Really, I do, they’re good people. Indeed, probably the single best and most fascinating part of the movie is how it doesn’t have anyone “evil” in it. There’s no villain in this story, just some brash, hard-headed people doing the best they can and seizing what they think is a golden, dragon-shaped opportunity. And it’s all very child-friendly, at least.
Where the movie goes wrong isn’t in what it shows but how. It fails in the delivery, becoming practically a study in just how campy and ham-fisted a movie can be. I have to wonder if they deliberately pinpointed and annihilated everything that could have been subtle on purpose, or if they just did that by accident. Either way, I was left very underwhelmed.
It’s not exactly like the competition is exceptionally fierce, either. The original Pete’s Dragon was a musical meant mostly for the kids, but the remake tries to be something more gritty and real and darker in tone while remaining light and fluffy and happy, and it just comes off as… well, “meh.”
In Disney’s continuing pattern of live-action remakes, Beauty and the Beast gives me pause about redoing their renaissance classics, especially if they try and mimic the old songs, but Pete’s Dragon is the one that persuades me, yes, Disney can get these re-imagined remakes wrong too. I don’t “hate” it, it just… feels “flat.” Lackluster. Bland.
I can’t even think of very much else to say about it.
Rating: 5 stars out of 10.