Disney’s hot streak of adapting their animated back catalogue into live action movies shows no signs of abating with this deeply poignant reimagining of the 1977 musical comedy.
As the local logging company moves ever more aggressively into the forests of the Pacific North West, they disturb the home of Pete, a ten year old orphan who has been living wild in the woods. But Pete hasn’t been on his own – he’s been protected by Elliot, a dragon. But as Pete makes tentative moves to return to civilisation, some people will stop at nothing to capture and exploit Eliot.
Soulful and emotional, this is a world away from the twee original and the success of the story comes through a remarkable performance from Oakes Fegley as Pete. He’s not quite Jacob Tremblay “Room” good, but he’s pretty darn close and matched by Bryce Dallas Howard who finds herself back amongst the monsters although this time at least she’s wearing sensible shoes. A story of family and friendship, there’s no real villain of the piece although Karl Urban comes closest as the ambitious logger. He’s not so much a bad guy as he is the personification of the American Dream of striking out into the wilderness, discovering the grandeur and beauty of nature. And then shooting it.
Robert Redford adds some grizzled warmth and gravitas but it’s always Pete and Eliot who hold your attention. Co-Writer and Director David Lowery cedes centre stage to the engaging cast and the spectacular scenery, his direction surefooted and unobtrusive.
Free of gimmicks and gratuitous set pieces, this is yet another quietly impressive family movie which has been bulldozed out of the way by the garish, hollow parade of overhyped blockbusters this year. Like “The BFG” and “Swallows And Amazons”, its true worth will become apparent as it takes its place as a family classic in years to come.