Pete's Dragon Reviews
The film is about Pete (Sean Marshall), an orphan boy who, along with his friendly (and mostly invisible) dragon Elliot, runs away from his abusive foster family The Gogans (led by Shelley Winters) to live a more peaceful and less abusive life. They come across the fishing town of Passamaquaddy, where Pete believes is the perfect town to live, but is viewed as a menace by the town when Elliot's invisibility causes a ton of havoc. Pete finally finds happiness when he starts living with lighthouse keeper Nora (Helen Reddy) and her drunken father Lampie (the great Mickey Rooney), though Nora believes that Elliot is just Pete's imaginary friend. While Pete starts to enjoy his new home, The Gogans are still looking for him, and the kooky and sneaky Doc Terminus (Jim Dale) is after Elliot for "medical" purposes.
The film also features Red Buttons as Doc's goofy assistant Hoagie and Jim Backus has a supporting role as the town's mayor.
Visually, Pete's Dragon, though not as excellent as some of Disney's greater works, is a feast for the eyes. The animation on Elliot the dragon is brilliant to look at and while some of the impressive wonders are kind of dated nowadays (look carefully for some of the tricks Disney hid in the Blu-ray release), I still am impressed by the detail Disney put out in this film. The cinematography is excellent as well. Fun trivia; before he left Disney studios, Don Bluth was head of animation department on this film.
Story wise, Pete's Dragon is mostly good. A story about a boy and his dragon is a smart idea, though when looking at it at first glance, it sounds like Disney was trying to imitate Mary Poppins after all. The thing you have to do when watching this film is pretend Mary Poppins never existed and you'll enjoy this film. No, it's does not outdo said masterpiece, but Pete's Dragon is a pretty fun film that's funny and entertaining.
Acting wise, the film is excellent. Sean Marshall is good as Pete, though he can't really sing, but has good personality enough for me to like this character. Shelley Winters, though goofy and cheesy, like her hillbilly clan, is entertaining as the matriarch of the abusive family that's after Pete. Helen Reddy is excellent as Nora, with the kindness and understanding that would fit the ideal mother that everyone should have. Mickey Rooney, like always, is entertaining, this time as the town drunk, and is delightfully funny, particularly his reactions to seeing the dragon for the first time. Jim Dale is truly hilarious (and the scene-stealer here) as the villain Doc Terminus, with absolute perfect hilarity and goofiness to come out of a kooky character. Red Buttons is also memorably awesome as the sidekick Hoagie, and last but not least, Jim Backus has an enjoyable small role as the mayor.
And last, musical wise, the songs were actually (mostly) good, considering they weren't written by Disney's regular songwriters, The Sherman Brothers. There were a couple of cheesy and atrocious numbers, such as the cheesy hillbilly song "The Happiest Home in These Hills" and the horrifically bad (and creepy) "I Love You Too", a love song between the boy and his dragon. Freaky! But thankfully, the rest of the songs are entertaining, including Mickey Rooney's entertaining bar-tune "I Saw a Dragon", the catchy "It's Not Easy", the memorable "Passamaschloddy", sung by a kooky Jim Dale, the Oscar-nominated and the best in the film, sung phenomenally by Helen Reddy, "Candle on the Water", the inspiring "There's Room For Everyone", the awesome villain tune "Every Little Piece", the catchy Muppet-sounding "Brazzle Dazzle Day", and the entertaining Gogan tune "Bill of Sale". Also, Irwin Kostal creates an amazing and memorable score along the way.
No it's not the greatest Disney movie in the world and Mary Poppins might have been the winner when it comes to a delightful story, but Pete's Dragon is filled with fun animation, funny comedic touches from Mickey Rooney, Shelley Winters, Jim Dale, and Red Buttons, the musical numbers are mostly entertaining (The Sherman Brothers could have wrote a better love song), and the film is an underrated Disney musical extravaganza that deserves more attention. While it may seem goofy and childish, the fun and cutesy Disney moments left me with a smile on my face due to how entertaining this film is. Man I must have a soft side.
This story centers around Pete (Sean Marshall), an orphan boy who is on the run from his abusive foster family. Accompanying him on his journey is Elliot, a large green dragon who he stumbled across. Elliot has the ability to turn invisible, only letting himself be seen by Pete. When the two stumble into the small town of Passamaquoddy, the folks there think Pete is a liar and jokester, disregarding his claims of an invisible dragon. After he gets taken in by a lighthouse-keeper (Mickey Rooney) and his daughter (Helen Reddy), Pete tries to save Elliot from a wacky con-artist (Jim Dale) who wants to capture and sell him.
Yes, this movie is old (and you can easily tell), but that doesn't take away from its magic. You have a real all-star cast featuring the great Mickey Rooney, Jim Dale, and Red Buttons. Although young Sean Marshall never went on to do anymore acting, he was the perfect pick for the role of Pete. A common complaint about this movie it's run-time, which is probably justified. It does run a tad long, but it's nothing that will ruin the fun. As a musical, this is one of the best. The songs are really great and catchy, surely staying in your head for days after watching it. You also have to love the chemistry between Pete and Elliot. It's hard not to get choked up at the very last scene.
Pete's Dragon has always gone overlooked and will never get the recognition it really deserves. I grew up watching this and will be sure that my kids do as well. Even as an adult it's a great deal of fun. A really great family film! 4 and a half stars.