Man, I did a lot of ugly face crying during this movie, more than once. I understood it was shameless emotional manipulation, but I felt like I got a sufficient payoff at the end. It's not at all the previous incarnation of PETE'S DRAGON from the 70s (although it is set hazily somewhere in the same decade), but Helen Reddy cannot be replicated and tastes change.
The other two adults I shared this experience with, however, appeared as though they had been force-fed SCHINDLER'S LIST for twelve hours as we came into the light after the screening. Not only were they puffy-eyed but also mad as hell that they'd been made to suffer through depictions of dragon cruelty and all sorts of other corny plot devices that made them uncomfortable and anxious. Two hours later they were still as fragile as someone who had witnessed that (alleged) Jerry Lewis movie about a Jewish clown who's forced to entertain children into "the showers" at a concentration camp.
I'm familiar with this sensation, it's the same feeling I had when (I'm almost alone on this) I witnessed LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL--a film I despise and will forever refer to as "Harpo Goes to Auschwitz". It's like kicking a puppy onscreen just to manipulate my hate for a villain. This version of PETE'S DRAGON had a much more benign impact on me than on my husband which is one of the reasons I see movies I'm going to review alone first.
Here's the deal: This is exactly like a live-action Disney movie was when the original came out forty years ago. It's filled with a ton of B+ celebrities, corny, contrived, unevenly acted and silly, but, ultimately, refreshingly safe for families with small children and grown-up cry babies like myself. The overt sentimentality will chafe more than a few adults, as will Robert Redford's continued addiction to hair dye. But most kids under eleven will probably adore it.
Since "Elliot" the dragon has certain dog-like qualities (even though he's green) pet-lovers and children with an affinity for animals will be affected more pronouncedly. I think Elliot could have been a touch cuter and I missed a sweet rendition of "Candle on the Water" but, still, solid family fare.
Disney has certainly not been lazy when remaking their "classics" lately; I still think THE JUNGLE BOOK is one of the best movies of the year. Really first rate. Other than the recent ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS monstrosity there is every reason to be optimistic about the upcoming reimagining of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Until then, PETE'S DRAGON lives on as proof of their dedication to releasing excellence.
(Loudinni specializes in movie reviews 500 words or less, sans spoilers.)