Pete’s Dragon worked for me. This is as surprising a development for me as it is for everyone who knows me. Let’s examine the facts:
- I’m not a huge fan of Lowery’s last film, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, such that I have not bothered to go back and see his other films. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the kind of big, beautiful blank that I hate seeing in indie cinema, a film that conflates restraint to the point of reticence as meaning and substance. It is only about anything in theory. In practice, it’s dull as hell, but at least it’s pretty to look at.
- Don Chaffey’s 1977 original film is an unwieldy and weird mess. Revisiting it years ago through the eyes of an adult, it struck me that I had really crap taste in movies as a kid.
But Pete’s Dragon ’16 makes great use of Lowery’s gifts as a teller of hushed stories, and it applies his aesthetic as a filmmaker perfectly while mingling his voice with that of a Toby Halbrooks, his co-writer, plus stellar FX work that makes Elliot, the dragon of the title, into one of the summer’s most compelling characters.
Basically, this thing made me cry, and it’ll make you cry too, and I suggest reading more at Paste Magazine to find out everything else I think about the film.