Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Movie Review: "Pete's Dragon" (1977)

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Movie"Pete's Dragon"
Director: Don Chaffey
Year: 1977
Rating: G
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes

A young orphan boy named Pete (Sean Marshall) is on the run from his wicked adopted parents, the Gogans, who treat him more like a slave than a son. His only friend in the world is a magical dragon named Elliot, who protects Pete in times of need. The two come upon the town of Passamaquoddy, where Elliot accidentally runs a bit of a muck before they meet Nora (Helen Reddy). Nora may be able to give Pete the loving home he's been looking for as long the Gogans don't find him, and as long as Elliot doesn't cause too much trouble or draw too much attention from the wrong people.

Directed by Don Chaffey, "Pete's Dragon" is a family adventure musical about a boy and his sometimes invisible dragon. Pete, played by Sean Marshall, is an orphan boy who has run away from the home of his abusive adoptive parents the Gogans, who are played by Shelly Winters, Charles Tyner, Gary Morgan, and Jeff Conway. Luckily, Pete has the help of his best and only friend Elliot, who helps him escape his wicked caregivers. Oh, did we mention Elliot is a big green dragon?? Elliot is voiced by Charlie Callis, but speaks primarily in hums, hoots, squawks, mumbles, and grunts. The magic of Elliot is achieved on screen through cartoon animation, which in many ways is similar to how we achieve mythical creatures in movies in the present day, but instead of drawing images with a computer, the animators had to do it all by hand. Some of the animators worked up to 100 hours a week during the production of "Pete's Dragon" to make the 1,800 feet of animation that would give Elliot his 22 minutes of screen time. We think they did a fantastic job bringing him to life, as well as giving him a wonderful personality that shines through his fun animation.

Though the musical aspect may be off-putting to some, we think "Pete's Dragon" is loaded with some really great songs. Many of them are sung by Grammy award winning pop artist Helen Reddy, who plays Nora the lighthouse operator, the woman who gives Pete a place to live. The song "Candle on the Water," which is sung by Reddy, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. It's not the only worthwhile or catchy tune in the film, though. "It's Not Easy" is definitely one of our favorites with very touching lyrics about finding a true friend. It's enough to bring a tear to the eye. Other songs like "I Love You Too" and "Brazzle Dazzle Day" are catchy and fun, but not as classic as some of the others. Others feel awkward within the context of the story and are exposition-heavy, but they can't all be perfect.

There is something really fun and magical about this hybrid-animated classic, and that's what Disney does best is produce wonderful films that transcend generations. "Pete's Dragon" brings a wonderful and cute main character to the big screen, as well as some great messages about family, love, and friendship to go along with it. It does feel a touch too long and may lose some younger viewers because of this, but we still find this film extremely enjoyable despite it's length. BigJ grew up watching this one with his family and has a strong nostalgic connection to it, and even having only seen it once, I know this will appeal to people young and old to share with their kids and families.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 48%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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