Vic a: Wow!
Vic b: What’s that? You’re giving one of your few ‘wow’s of the year to some mediocre Disney film about a boy and a CGI dragon? Are you kidding me?
Vic a: Hey, I’m as surprised as you are. I didn’t even have any interest in seeing Pete’s Dragon. I mean, the animated version was a dud, so why bother making a live action version, right? But Janelle wanted to see it, so…
Vic b: Yeah, okay, I understand why you went, but that doesn’t explain the ‘wow’. Come on, a super-sweet kids’ film about a lost boy who spends six years in the forest with a dragon before he gets noticed and then of course there’s a baddie who wants to capture and exploit the dragon. What we have here is a simple unoriginal story with an overbearing score and a furry dragon. A ‘wow’? Seriously?
Vic a: I hear you. Even with the excellent child acting (by Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence), I was sitting there thinking, ‘Why did I waste my time and money on this? It doesn’t even resemble any Disney film that I have seen in forever (not even the animated film with the same name): this is a very slow, poetic film with hardly any action and no redemptive violence at all and … wait a minute.’
Vic b: So what happened?
Vic a: It dawned on me that Pete’s Dragon was unlike any Disney film I had seen in forever, a slow poetic film with hardly any action and no redemptive violence! Not only that, it had a scene in the middle (with Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard playing father and daughter) that just pulled the ground from under my feet and is now my favourite scene of the year. After that scene I couldn’t stop crying, and neither could Janelle. I can’t even remember the last time I watched a film with an emotional punch like this. Unfathomable.
Vic b: Hmmm. Sounds like you were the victim of some serious sentimental manipulation. Remember this is Disney. Think of all the damage Disney has done to impressionable young minds.
Vic a: I know very well the kind of influence Disney can exert on impressionable young minds. And I agree that something smells fishy when Disney makes a film that doesn’t appear to be fuelled by corporate greed, a film that feels even older than its 1980’s setting and almost seems to dare viewers to come to the cinema to watch somethings completely different. But maybe it’s a sign of hope; I mean, Disney is still making some great films (remember Inside Out?).
Vic b: Yeah, but look at the megabucks they’re raking in; it’s all about the money, as it always has been. Disney just gives people what they want.
Vic a: And yet, even though Pete’s Dragon is doing surprisingly well at the box office, it’s not going to come within light years of The Jungle Book, which was a decent film but nowhere near as good as Pete’ Dragon. Disney must have known this would never be a huge hit, but they took a chance anyway; they should be applauded for that.
Vic b: Somebody must have been sleeping. Who is this David Lowery fellow anyway, the guy who directed and co-wrote Pete’s Dragon?
Vic a: Never heard of him, but I see he did direct an episode of the wonderful Rectify, and Gareth says good things about him, so maybe he slipped through some crack in the Disney machine. Or maybe Disney is able to think beyond the almighty dollar once in a while.
Vic b: I’ll need more evidence before admitting that. And you still haven’t explained the ‘wow’.
Vic a: Bottom line: Pete’s Dragon is pure magic. It’s about seeing the world through eyes of innocent wonder instead of through eyes of resource extraction; indeed, it's about discovering that there's much more out there than we can see with our eyes. It’s about love, friendship, family and the environment, and did I mention there’s hardly any action and that the film’s baddie (played by Karl Urban) is … wait for it … redeemed at the end?
Vic b: No way! Not in a Disney film. You must have missed something.
Vic a. I couldn’t believe it either. I’m telling you, this is the kind of family film Hollywood hasn’t made in decades and the relief is a little overwhelming. I’m almost in shock, and thus the ‘wow’ and the unexpected ****. My mug is up. Take your kids and take yourselves to the surprise film of the decade (I recommend, as you know, the 2D version).