After his parents are killed in a car crash on a remote country road, little boy Pete (Fegley) survives with the help of a big, green, furry – and utterly adorable – dragon that he names Elliot. But when forest ranger Grace (Howard) find Pete and his pal in the woods years later, she and her father (Redford) realise the mythical creature is in danger from townspeople who want to capture it.
Very loosely based on Disney’s own quirky 1977 movie that mixed animation with real actors and music, this live action film is one of those rare remakes that is a vast improvement on the original. Ditching the nastier story elements (in the seventies movie, Pete had abusive adoptive parents he was fleeing from, and the main villain wanted to do truly mean things to Elliot), this blends warm, affectionate performances (Howard and Redford are both lovely, Fegley is a junior star) with a well-paced story that has a few moments of peril but nothing that will send younger viewers scurrying from the cinema.
The star, of course, is that green, hairy CGI masterpiece, with a face like an cuddly (overgrown) puppy and magical powers that mean he can fly and turn invisible when needed. His friendship with Pete is truly touching, and the most believable boy-and-creature pairing since ET and his friend Elliott in ET: The Extra Terrestrial.
In fact, grown-ups who remember loving Spielberg’s classic sci-fi family movie as kids will recognise the same heart and enchantment here, in a fantasy adventure that really is for everyone.
An unforgettable movie you’ll share with your kids, laughing along with them, and crying a little bit with them too.
Is Pete’s Dragon (2016) suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Younger viewers (under 8s) may find the early scene of the car crash with Pete’s parents upsetting, and be worried he is left alone without them.
Early on, Pete is surrounded by wolves which may scare little ones, but he is soon rescused by Elliot.
At one point, Elliot is captured and tied down which may upset sensitive viewers.