Review: Pete's Dragon (2016)
Pete's Dragon soarsThe major weakness of Pete’s Dragon (if you can even call it a weakness in this context) is that you’ve seen this story before, or one very similar to it. Like last year’s Creed, Pete’s Dragon knows the formula it’s working to, and sticks to it - there’s nary a narrative beat that fails to show up on time and in its expected place. But, as Creed proved, when made with care, thought and conviction a formula film can be a tremendously satisfying thing.
Director David Lowery musters his ingredients with a wonderfully understated and deft touch - the film’s gentle pace and natural settings evoke Carroll Ballard’s Fly Away Home and The Black Stallion as much as the more obvious Spielbergian templates. The film's apparently effortless craft and obvious sincerity actually turns the story’s familiar shape to its advantage - Pete's Dragon is tremendously comfortable in the very best sense of the word. And frankly I would have happily sat through a much less accomplished movie just to enjoy Bryce Dallas Howard's Grace, who virtually glows with kindness throughout, or Robert Redford’s Meacham, a wistful old granddad whose inner child visibly twinkles just below his weathered facade, waiting for an excuse to surge to the surface once again.
Much like the titular dragon Elliot, Pete’s Dragon may wobble occasionally, but more often than not it soars. This is the type of movie that gives formula filmmaking a good name.