Monday, September 5, 2016

Looking at Movies - Pete's Dragon (2016)

I'm going to go ahead and admit that I did not see the original Pete's Dragon, but luckily that does not affect my ability to enjoy this one. For those of us who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, Disney was the source of movies where you could just turn off your brain and watch the story. Suspension of disbelief was easy because it was Disney and you didn't care. None of the movies were going to win awards, but they were fun to watch. The new Pete's Dragon brought me back to my childhood to those Sunday evenings where I had just taken a shower and was curled up on the couch waiting for this week's Wonderful World of Disney movie. It isn't a great movie, but it doesn't have to be.

Disney has never really been good at making live action movies. I know plenty of you will disagree with me, and that is okay. But Disney has a history of pumping out movies that were designed to appeal to the masses. I'm not talking about the Marvel movies or movies by any studio Disney has purchased. I am talking about real Disney movies made by Disney itself, and I am not talking about the animated movies either. In the 1970s and 1980s, Disney invented the lowest common denominator movie, but it did so without insulting people the way movies do today. Disney movies were fun and funny at the same time, but you really had to let go of reality to enjoy them.

The new Pete's Dragon had me feeling 12 years old again and back on my couch on a Sunday evening waiting for the Wonderful World of Disney to start. I never missed those movies, but I don't remember a single one of them. It's okay though, because I have a feeling that was their purpose. Those movies were designed to make you enjoy a Disney movie, but not necessarily remember it as a great film. After home runs with kid's movies such as The Jungle Book and Zootopia, Disney decided to put up a blooper into left field and it works just as well as the home runs.

There is a lot you have to let go to enjoy this movie, but it is set up so well that you just allow things to happen without questioning them. Robert Redford looks amazing for 80 years old, and he puts in one of the better performances in the film. Redford's character is predictable, but the way he plays it makes you want to see more of him as the movie goes along. The rest of the characters are pretty generic, except Pete, and they are played by actors who do exactly what is expected of them.

Karl Urban plays the closest thing to a bad guy in the movie, but even he flashes that "Yeah, I screwed up and I'm sorry" smile at the end that wipes away all of the extremely dangerous things he did throughout the movie. The relationships between some of the characters are not developed very well, but that is okay. The main thing here is the story, and the movie does an excellent job at moving the story along.

You are left with plenty of questions when the movie ends, but the answers are not important. Finally, Disney went back to its Sunday evening roots and created a movie that the entire family can enjoy without needing the movie to have any larger meaning. This movie is fun, and the story is very basic, which means anyone can follow it. One thing I was grateful for is that Disney did not go for the huge emotional tug before the burst of positive energy at the end. I was really waiting for that Bambi moment when someone important dies or something horrible happens, but it never took place. I think that was another reason why I liked this movie so much.

If you are looking for a harmless but fun night at the drive-in, then check out Pete's Dragon. I know drive-in season is just about over, but you still have some time. As long as we don't have snow on the ground, I can guarantee that at least one of our drive-ins will be open. As long as that drive-in is open, you should be there on the weekends creating new memories for your kids.

Pete's Dragon is definitely a good memory making movie, even though you and your kids probably won't remember the actual movie itself years from now.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

George N Root III is a drive-in fanatic who hates the end of drive-in season. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at Get out to the drive-in now while you still can! You won't regret it!