Pete’s Dragon review: Family fun in tale of a fiery friendship

Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace, Wes Bentley as Jack and Oona Laurence as Natalie

Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace, Wes Bentley as Jack and Oona Laurence as Natalie

Matt Adcock reviews Pete’s Dragon, starring Robert Redford

Prepare to believe in dragons once more as the powers that be re-image Disney’s original boy-and-dragon story Pete’s Dragon.

Step this way or an adventure which sees unfortunate orphan Pete (Oakes Fegley) surviving in the wild thanks to his unusual best friend Elliot (a kind hearted furry green beastie).

Pete and Elliot’s worlds are shaken up when Pete runs into Forest Ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) who has somehow managed not to notice the wild boy and his giant green pal living on her patch of forest for several years. He’s whisked off to civilization and introduced to Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill.

Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about his dragon – while the townsfolk decide to catch Elliot to make money out of him. Can the two mismatched kids and kindly dragon believing old timer Mr Meacham (Robert Redford) - who tells the local children tales of a dragon residing deep in the woods-– find a way to triumph?

Well, without wanting to spoil it, this is a Disney children’s fantasy but it does at least throw in some mild scares, a spot of tension and an impressive fire-breathing finale. This new take on Pete’s Dragon updates the 1977 live-action animation mixture removes lots of the cheese and adds some nice thought -provoking themes. Director David Lowery does a decent job in making the whole tale bounce along with a bittersweet grounding that should appeal to both kids and those who can still find their inner sense of childlike wonder.

Everyone goes about the fantasy fun and occasional peril with good spirit, Redford is the best I’ve seen him in years and the two young leads are very watchable. Howard has strong recent form with giant lizards after Jurassic World, plus there’s Karl ‘Star Trek’ Urban and Wes ‘American Beauty’ Bentley to round out a great cast.

Pete’s Dragon is a family pleaser which stands above the cash in summer kids efforts and is certainly worth a look.