Pete’s Dragon was my favorite Disney movie when I was growing up, but I hadn’t watched it since I was little. Recently, I’ve revisited many films I loved as a child only to be disappointed by them. So naturally, I was afraid the same was going to happen to the one I loved the most.
The film is about a boy, Pete, who has escaped with his dragon, Elliot, from his abusive foster family. The two of them come to the town of Passamaquoddy, where they meet a lighthouse owner, Nora (Helen Reddy) and her father, played by Mickey Rooney.
As far as the music goes, the songs are some of Disney’s best. It’s hard to point out highlights, since all of them are so memorable. My favorite might be the film’s first song, “The Happiest Home in These Hills,” which is as memorable of an opening as could be. They say that in most films, the part you remember the least is the beginning. But in Pete’s Dragon, it’s one of the best scenes. The choreography and the creepiness of Pete’s orphan family chasing him through the swampy forest is still ingrained in my head all these years later and sets the tone for the rest of the film.
But the dark tone shifts a lot throughout and we end up getting more of a campy musical feel the rest of the way out. But at least that’s what it wants to be.
Elliot, the dragon, is as adorable as any Disney character. He brightens up the screen whenever he’s on it. In fact, the biggest problem is probably the fact that he only gets 22 minutes of total screen time in a movie that’s 134 minutes.
It’s still better than the original plan, which was to have him absent in the movie altogether. Instead, remaining in Pete’s imagination only. What we get is better than nothing.
Most films back then aren’t without their issues, and neither is Pete’s Dragon. It has its fair share of plot holes. It doesn’t make much sense why Pete waits almost the entire movie to show Elliot to Nora. He has no reason to hide him from her. But if you throw in nostalgia, these things don’t really matter as much.
It’s a fun movie. Kids will enjoy it, and it’s completely tolerable for adults.