Heartwarming, adventurous rendering of an earlier Disney fantasy 3.5 Stars

A heartwarming family adventure fantasy, David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon takes some characters and situations from Disney’s own 1977 musical fantasy and fashions a new story more in tune with 21st century sensibilities.

Pete's Dragon (2016)
Released: 12 Aug 2016
Rated: PG
Runtime: 103 min
Director: David Lowery
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence
Writer(s): David Lowery (screenplay), Toby Halbrooks (screenplay), Malcolm Marmorstein (based on a screenplay by), Seton I. Miller (based on a story by), S.S. Field (based on a story by)
Plot: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.
IMDB rating: 7.2
MetaScore: 71

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 43 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: ABC
Release Date: 11/29/2016
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 3.5/5

A heartwarming family adventure fantasy, David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon takes some characters and situations from Disney’s own 1977 musical fantasy and fashions a new story more in tune with 21st century sensibilities. It’s a beautifully produced and wonderfully acted romp, more dramatic and less prone to slapstick than the earlier tale and with a winning though restrained use of sentimentality earning the film a deserved payoff at the end.

Orphaned four-year old Pete (Levi Alexander) wanders into the Oregon woods after the automobile death of his parents only to be taken up by a furry green dragon he names “Elliot” based on a character in a book he was learning to read. Six years later, wild child Pete (now played by Oakes Fegley) and Elliot get along beautifully in the deep woods outside Millhaven. Foresters led by Gavin (Karl Urban) cutting deeply into the forest find Pete when he’s startled and falls from a tree, and he’s taken to the hospital much to Elliot’s dismay. Park Ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), her husband Jack (Wes Bentley), and their daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) take a special interest in the orphan boy, and his descriptions of his friend Elliot, combined with sights Gavin swears he glimpsed in the woods and stories Grace’s father Meacham (Robert Redford) used to tell about the Millhaven dragon have the entire town believing there is a dragon deep in the woods, one they’re determined to find.

Director David Lowery has written the screenplay with Toby Halbrooks, and while their tale is a fairly predictable one with an innocent creature being hunted by segments of humanity determined to capture and exploit it (giving the rest of humanity a bad name with their proprietary and somewhat unfeeling natures), they manage to not turn their story into quite as bloodthirsty a quest as might be expected. They also manage to stress the more human and humane aspects of the Pete-Elliot relationship that gives the audience a vivid rooting interest to see the devoted twosome somehow manage to reunite despite others’ efforts to the contrary. With today’s vastly sophisticated CG magicians, Elliot can come to such believable life that he takes on many “human” aspects which we can read into his behaviors (for example, his spying on the family reading Pete a bedtime story letting him know his charge is in safe hands can be programmed into the character’s creation so that emotions flicker across his face as they can do across the faces of the very best actors). This is such an improvement over the 1977 hand drawn animated dragon that makes this rendition much more emotionally present and more captivatingly alive. And, of course, additional special effects wizardry takes us on exhilarating flights with Elliot through the skies and makes the climactic showdown with his would-be captors on a bridge, nicely directed by David Lowery, daring and suspenseful.

Both young actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence are expressively appealing without overdoing either the brattiness or the preciousness inherent in their ages, and we continually cheer their spiritedness throughout the movie. Bryce Dallas Howard is a warm, loving presence as the mother, and Robert Redford as her wry father brings a twinkly sense of humor to the proceedings. Karl Urban serves as the primary antagonist without ever going so far as to be a total villain, out to capture Elliot but without bloodshed. Wes Bentley is quietly sensible as the father.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced using the AVC codec in this 1080p transfer. Filmed in New Zealand substituting for Oregon, the greens of the forest are simply gorgeous in Bojan Bazelli’s masterful cinematography with other colors vivid or subdued as needed and skin tones always realistic. Sharpness is exemplary with the CG work on Elliot’s fur making it seem completely realistic in texture and thickness. Contrast has been admirably applied for a consistent visual experience, and black levels are superb. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.

The movie was shown in theaters in a 3D version which unfortunately has not been announced for American home video. A 3D version would certainly expand on the boundless expanses and depths of those forests where Elliot and Pete live and play.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is reference quality all the way with traces of directionalized dialogue offering some dimensional expanse on the mostly center channel-focused verbiage. Several soundtrack songs and Daniel Hart’s sentimental background score get great spread through the fronts and rears. Atmospheric effects likewise get superb placement throughout the soundstage (an early encounter Pete has with a pack of wolves places the listener in the forest with him with wolves closing in for a strike).

Special Features: 3/5

Audio Commentary: writer-director David Lowery, his writing partner Toby Halbrooks, and young stars Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence have a fun experience watching the movie and commenting on memories of its making.

Notes To Self: A Director’s Diary (7:31, HD): director David Lowery notes special moments in the five-month shoot in New Zealand as we see behind-the-scenes shots of the movie being produced.

Making Magic (2:12, HD): voiceover comments by actors Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, and Oona Laurence along with director David Lowery enhance behind the scenes shots of the actors performing with various kinds of stand-ins for Elliot.

“Disappearing” Moments (9:12, HD): director David Lowery presents a montage of various deleted, alternate, or extended scenes from the movie.

Bloopers (1:29, HD)

“Nobody Knows” Music Video (3:12, HD): performed by The Lumineers

“Something Wild” Music Video (3:45, HD): performed by Lindsey Stirling and Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness

Welcome to New Zealand (1:56, HD): director David Lowery and actress Bryce Dallas Howard express the beauties of the area and explain why it was used for filming.

Promo Trailer (HD): Beauty and the Beast

DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.

Overall: 3.5/5

Pete’s Dragon is a welcome reimagining of the earlier Disney fantasy offering excellent performances and some breathtaking cinematography to enhance the heartwarming storytelling. Video and audio are reference quality missing only the 3D element which would have made for a perfect home video release. Nevertheless, families should really enjoy this.

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David Norman

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Excellent review Matt. I hope this movie gets a much bigger viewing on Home Video than it got in the theater.

OTOH as a personal note and I say this as a 3D supporter -- has the knee jerk phrase "No 3D, no sale" in any thread (review or deals thread and many times even when a 3D item is available) become almost as irritating as
Wassup, No HDMI No sale, Han Shot First, Just Saying, any noun that has become a adjective or verb by some Marketing/Political pundit, the term Mission Statement, or the response "That's a Great Question" uttered about every possible question asked on any talk show whether it's a caller or show host regardless of how completely inane the question might be.
 

Johnny Angell

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Excellent review Matt. I hope this movie gets a much bigger viewing on Home Video than it got in the theater.

OTOH as a personal note and I say this as a 3D supporter -- has the knee jerk phrase "No 3D, no sale" in any thread (review or deals thread and many times even when a 3D item is available) become almost as irritating as
Wassup, No HDMI No sale, Han Shot First, Just Saying, any noun that has become a adjective or verb by some Marketing/Political pundit, the term Mission Statement, or the response "That's a Great Question" uttered about every possible question asked on any talk show whether it's a caller or show host regardless of how completely inane the question might be.
What is irritating is a movie that was released in 3D and is not released on home theater in 3D. That's irritating. So I'll chime in and say if there's no 3D release, I won't be buying this one.
 
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David Norman

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What is irritating is a movie that was released in 3D and is not released on home theater in 3D. That's irritating. So I'll chime in and say if there's no 3D release, I won't be buying this one.
Perfectly fine to be irritated, but take the irritation to the people that can change it and leave the threads alone.

I really don't need to be reminded the Star Wars Complete Saga isn;t complete anymore, because nobody yet has announced their discovery that there is a new SW movie. I really don't need to hear another person who will "Gladly pay more for Indiana Jones withouth Crystal Skull.
It is neither relevant, useful, not remotely humorous after the 25000th person thinks they are the first one that came up with a new joke. Why even take the time?
 

Johnny Angell

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Perfectly fine to be irritated, but take the irritation to the people that can change it and leave the threads alone.

I really don't need to be reminded the Star Wars Complete Saga isn;t complete anymore, because nobody yet has announced their discovery that there is a new SW movie. I really don't need to hear another person who will "Gladly pay more for Indiana Jones withouth Crystal Skull.
It is neither relevant, useful, not remotely humorous after the 25000th person thinks they are the first one that came up with a new joke. Why even take the time?
Kinda sounds like we need "Guidelines by Norman" to post here. It was perfectly valid for Jesse to say he would not buy this release without 3D and neither will I. As for taking it to the people who can change it, I don't think Disney listens much to us here.
 

David Norman

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Sure he has the right to post the cumulative 10K/100K/1Mth rep of the same phrase and I have the right to wonder why and to be irritated by it. And then wonder what in the end is it expected to accomplish. Is Disney or Warner or Lucas tallying posts and changing their mind.

Posting it in a "Why is there not a 3D of Item #10658" would at least make sense. Posting it as a first response to a very nice review makes little if any sense (and the Pete's Dragon Official announcement thread or Pete's Dragon movie thread or Pete's Dragon Toy thread or Disney General Discussion thread or Disney random movie thread and I swear someone on a far flung forum did it is a Panera Bread Deal thread).
 

noel aguirre

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Yet another 3D Import to buy for sure. Like Jungle Book, Maleficent, Big Hero 6, Frozen, etc
 

Dick

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OTOH as a personal note and I say this as a 3D supporter -- has the knee jerk phrase "No 3D, no sale" in any thread (review or deals thread and many times even when a 3D item is available) become almost as irritating as Wassup, No HDMI No sale, Han Shot First, Just Saying, any noun that has become a adjective or verb by some Marketing/Political pundit, the term Mission Statement, or the response "That's a Great Question" uttered about every possible question asked on any talk show whether it's a caller or show host regardless of how completely inane the question might be.
David, while I understand your point, don't forget that it is entirely possible someone at Disney actually reads these threads, although they never respond to them.

I do understand that Disney has provided us with belated 3D releases of a few of their films 9STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE and JUNGLE BOOK), but, after years, some remain available in that format only in Europe. What strikes me as a bit alarming is that with PETE'S DRAGON, no 3D edition has been released in Germany, France or the UK, whereas I was able to get BIG HERO 6, MALEFICENT and FROZEN from those outlets on the same day they were released in the U.S. on 2D only. This doesn't bode well, but perhaps Disney is adapting the same belated 3D release in Europe as it seems to be here,
 
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I do understand that Disney has provided us with belated 3D releases of a few of their films 9STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE and JUNGLE BOOK), but, after years, some remain available in that format only in Europe. What strikes me as a bit alarming is that with PETE'S DRAGON, no 3D edition has been released in Germany, France or the UK, whereas I was able to get BIG HERO 6, MALEFICENT and FROZEN from those outlets on the same day they were released in the U.S. on 2D only. This doesn't bode well, but perhaps Disney is adapting the same belated 3D release in Europe as it seems to be here,
I think this and The BFG are going to be the real test for Disney releasing 3-D discs in the U.S. Putting out huge hits like The Jungle Book and Star Wars again is a no-brainer but since Pete's Dragon and The BFG weren't hits*, they will show if we can generally expect Disney to do a 3-D release a few months later or if it'll be on the big movies only.

* Pete's Dragon probably wasn't that pricey and it did OK in theaters but The BFG definitely cost a lot of money and it didn't make a ton.
 

Robert Crawford

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I enjoyed this film and thought the 3-D presentation was very good. It's too bad the box receipts were lower than a movie of this quality deserved while inferior films did get some decent box office traffic. Anyhow, I'm going to hold off buying this title until a 3-D release is available for me to do so, even if it means importing it. I'm sorry if that irritates some people, but there it is.
 

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David, while I understand your point, don't forget that it is entirely possible someone at Disney actually reads these threads, although they never respond to them.

I do understand that Disney has provided us with belated 3D releases of a few of their films 9STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE and JUNGLE BOOK), but, after years, some remain available in that format only in Europe. What strikes me as a bit alarming is that with PETE'S DRAGON, no 3D edition has been released in Germany, France or the UK, whereas I was able to get BIG HERO 6, MALEFICENT and FROZEN from those outlets on the same day they were released in the U.S. on 2D only. This doesn't bode well, but perhaps Disney is adapting the same belated 3D release in Europe as it seems to be here,
Disney could read the thread, but it's the throwaway nature of the line that bugs me more than the sentiment. If the post had spoken about the movie or review specifically and then mentioned that they wouldn't be purchasing b/c of XXXXX then it would sit better. I will be more than happy to delete my responses if folks feel they are out of line or inappropriate to the thread though others would have to redact anything quoted

While JB and SW both got 3d releases, those were specifically announced with a delay from the initial press release so there wasn't anything to change. I have plenty of EU 3D as well as a Need For Speed from Mexico so I have no problem buying from overseas.

PD does not appear to have a 3D release anywhere -- the listed Indian 3D order has been canceled though I don't think it was ever officially announced there. BFG should at least have a 3D release since Disney doesn't seem to have distribution rights in all countries though it does appear to be region locked from the UK like Ratatouille was
 

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the loss of the 3D is too bad, but in my opinion the non-inclusion of the Dolby Atmos mix is beyond annoying - it's such a beautiful mix that puts you aurally right in the middle of the expansive forest - the use of the ceiling speakers are used to creative and dynamic effect --- oh well ... maybe Disney will surprise us and rerelease this on UHD with said sound mix
 

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I guess I am part of the how-hard-can-it-be camp: it would cost very little more for Disney to include a 3D version into a multi-disc release that also contains 2D, bonus features, and digital copy, as they have done in the past, They already have the 3D master, the replication of which would be negligible. Why can't this f**king company simply keep all of us happy, after having lured a lot of us into 3D in the first place?
 

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Generally, I would guess this is the key phrase "keep all of us happy"
I'm fairly sure the people that would complain about paying extra to have a 'useless' 3D disc in the combo pack would outnumber the people who complain about not having a 3D at all. If they went to one package I guarantee the howls would come from all sides including those BD people who complain about having a useless 3D and those that complain about the useless DVD included.
That's leaves the choice of releases separate editions which is a significant added cost to run multiple levels of inventory - DVD, Bluray, 3D Bluray

And of course the inevitable Why isn't there a UHD option, why can't they include the Atmos track, why are there more extras included, too much DNR, too much audio manipulation, too grainy, colors not right, wrong kind of digital copy, having a digital copy at all, lack of lenticular slipcover, having a wasteful slipcover at all, ugly art work, no disc art, wrong disc art, disc art at all, poor case design, lack of retailer exclusives, too many retailer exclusives, why can't they release a 7 disc set for less than $10 which is all it costs the greedy bastards to begin with since they're making money hand over fist anyway, etc
 

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Not to thread-crap, but while there isn't a PETE'S DRAGON 3D to be found anywhere, you can get a region-free BFG 3D from Amazon.co.uk.
 
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