In New England in the early 20th century, Pete is a nine-year-old orphan escaping from his brutal adoptive parents, the Gogans, with his only friend, a cartoon dragon named Elliott. They successfully escape to Passamaquoddy, Maine, and live with Nora, a lighthouse keeper, and her father, Lampie. Elliott is sought for medicinal purposes by the corrupt Dr. Terminus. Written by
Matthew Anscher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Generally unsatisfactory musical numbers blend in with the other major flaws
I remember at one point in my childhood, I heard about a movie called "Pete's Dragon", maybe when it was about to come on TV, and also remember seeing some of it, though I can't remember how much I saw. There was another part of the film I remember seeing some years later (the part where the Dr. Terminus character manages to win over the initially angry people), but I didn't know what movie I was seeing. After many years, I could still remember the title of this mostly live action Disney film (but one with a cartoon dragon), and finally decided to watch it from start to finish this week. It's far from one of the most highly regarded Disney productions in the long history of the company, and I wasn't expecting it to be among the great ones, but I was expecting it to be better than I found it to be, which is not good at all for the most part.
With the help of his magical dragon, Elliott, a young orphaned boy named Pete manages to escape from his cruel adoptive family, the Gogans, but they are still determined to find him somehow or other. The boy and his dragon friend travel together and soon come to a village called Passamaquoddy. Before they enter, Pete tells Elliott that he must make himself invisible (a magical power of his) in order to avoid scaring the people, so the dragon reluctantly does so, but even in his invisible form, he soon causes a lot of trouble in the village, and since nobody can see him, it looks like Pete is responsible! After Pete gets away from an angry mob and Elliott scares Lampie, the drunken lighthouse keeper, the two of them go to a cave near the lighthouse, where Nora, Lampie's daughter, finds Pete and decides to give him shelter in her home. He often talks to her about Elliott, and she doesn't believe that this dragon actually exists, but plays along. Unfortunately, the dragon continues to cause trouble for Pete, and the village of Passamaquoddy has another problem when medicine showman Dr. Terminus and his assistant, Hoagy, are back to swindle the villagers again with their fraudulent formulas!
This live action/animation crossover is a musical, and unfortunately, the songs generally don't have much effect. I think this already shows with the first song, sung by the Gogans as they pursue Pete, but it gets worse after the boy and his dragon friend get away from them and we hear the next musical number, "Boo Bop Bopbop Bop (I Love You, Too)". During this song, I felt like I was watching something strictly for the very young. Basically, the rest of the songs also fail, including the "I Saw a Dragon" one featured in the part where Lampie tells the people in the tavern what he saw, a notably clumsy segment of the film. The musical numbers are only one of the significant flaws in the film. Most of the cast performances failed to impress me, especially Jane Kean overacting in the role of Miss Taylor, the strict teacher of the village. It doesn't seem that Sean Marshall, who plays the title character, was a very good child actor. "Pete's Dragon" does have some pretty funny parts, but not enough to make it really work as a comedy, either. Also, while I certainly didn't find myself not caring what happened to any of the characters, I still didn't find most of the story too entertaining for some reason, but that might have been largely because of the other problems.
This is a mainly live action family musical, and maybe I'm not usually into movies like this, but that hasn't stopped me from finding "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", a live action family musical from six years before this one, to be a great film, so it's definitely not like "Pete's Dragon" would look bad to me regardless of quality. This particular Disney piece came out the same year as "The Rescuers", an all animated feature which disappointed me when I first saw it last year (I actually found its 1990 sequel, "The Rescuers Down Under", to be much better, as rare as that is with sequels and as much as many Disney fans would probably disagree), but even that film I found to be better than this very lacklustre live action/animation crossover. I gave "Pete's Dragon" a try, and realize that it has a following (not a huge one, but it is a following), but simply put, I just didn't like it. I guess I can still recommend it for kids and won't say adults should avoid it at all costs, but I also still think there are good reasons for all the criticism.
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