Review: Pete’s Dragon (Spoiler: it sucks)

Pete’s Dragon is an emotional exploitive film, filled with dull visuals, sterile and formulaic characters and cliché movie retreads that make it a complete bore and wholeheartedly skippable summer film.

What do I mean by emotionally exploitive? It uses cheap devices instead of hard fought and built up story to get to our emotions. Sad music. Dark Visuals. Plaid shirts. No shampoo. A depressed aura of impending tragedy. The Pacific Northwest. Danger to children. Dead Parents. Potential harm to best buddy dragon. Snooze.

What do I mean by dull visuals? The movie is dark and this adds to the cheap route to get to our sadness and that feeling of impending tragedy and separation. The whole thing is shot in a mud puddle. I could hardly make out the detail on old Elliot, and even needed opportunities for visuals to show things off like Pete and Elliot’s “Good Times” together and bonding in the beginning are brief and inadequate.

The story is nothing original. (even for a remake) Of course, I’m a guy who routinely says you don’t have to always write something too original to make something work. Still, this stinker makes me rethink aspects of that notion.

I’ll spare you most of the plot. The film starts like the last fifty horror/slasher flicks I’ve seen with a depressing “Parents killed in a sudden car accident scene”. Really didn’t expect to see this cliché in a kid’s movie formerly about a wisecracking cartoon dragon. I mean, sweet Jesus, where’s Mickey fucking Rooney when you need him?

For an idea on the flow of the rest of the movie just go see any of the other “monster meets society” type flick that has already been done. The Frankenstein/King Kong meets E.T./ Harry and the Hendersons formula and you have the jist. Frankly, this movie does nothing any of those other films didn’t do better.

The actors feel like clay models. Robert Redford shambles through this film like an extra off the set of the “Walking Dead”. The guy from Hunger Games is like a card board cutout of an emotionally boring non-threatening male father figure. Freakin’ normally awesome Karl Urban is like a ham chop antagonist as he lays down his best example of over acting. I’m not gonna lie Bryce Howard is a really solid actress and does ok here, though she alone can’t save the picture.

The film even makes a strange grab at some form of niche credibility by setting itself in the 1980s, when the choice has literally no bearing on anything and is completely unnecessary except to show off a few old cars and phones. I mean, hey…maybe would have been a better idea to spend that dough on an actual respectable script?

Ugh…add in the obligatory hipster acoustic strumming guitar folk tunes and this movie just bursts at the seams with pretentious emotional vapidness. I half expected the guy from Into the Wild to pop out of some moss and offer up some roots for everyone to munch on.

Let’s be clear, I’m not going to praise the original 1977 film like it was some pristine classic of Disney gold…but at the least it was whimsical (in plot and execution) and fun. This is more like a chore to go through, and any real serious sense of loss on the parents is just wasted away.

This movie is just dull, dour and cheap. An ordeal of cinema, save for when the sassy Ms. Howard takes up the screen. Who fucking greenlit this garbage? Another huge remake fail for Hollywood and Disney, and a movie I strongly suggest skipping.

 

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