A few weeks ago, I read an article that Disney was in the process of re-making the movie Pete’s Dragon. This version won’t be a musical, but it will (obviously) be a combination of live action and animation. The new movie will utilize high-end CGI (Computer-generated imagery) provided by the Academy Award winning company that gave us the many creatures in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Hobbit. I imagine that means we’ll see a more realistic version of Elliot, the dragon.
I admit that I’m not generally a fan of remakes, whether it’s an old TV show or a movie. In so many cases, I question if they can actually improve on a classic. And I think in most cases, they don’t. (e.g., The Day the Earth Stood Still. UGH!)
So as you might expect, my immediate reactions to a new version of Pete’s Dragon was not enthusiastic.
After reading about the upcoming remake, I shared the news with my husband, and how much I loved the original. I recalled it was one of my son’s favorite movies, and all the times we would watch it together. I actually got misty talking about those memories.
When I learned that he'd never seen the movie (GASP!), I decided that was unacceptable. So I retrieved my DVD copy, got us some snacks, and we had a movie night.
It’s probably been 20 years since I’ve watched the film, and this time, I was surprised at a couple of revelations:
- The acting is bad, and that's an understatement. While she has an incredible voice, Helen Reddy is clearly not an actor. Worse, the young boy who played Pete made me cringe. And I expected more from some of the seasoned thespians, such as Red Buttons, Mickey Rooney, Jim Backus and Shelley Winters. I didn’t remember it being so...campy!
- The interface between the live action and animation is flat and unrealistic. Granted, the technology was not as advanced as we’ve come to expect, but I didn’t remember it being this bad.
On a positive note (that's a pun), to me, the songs still hold up...though I recognized that the style of music would not be considered historically accurate for the time period portrayed in the film. But for days after re-watching, I found myself singing them in my head:
Candle on the Water is a beautiful, haunting song of love and devotion. (The song became a hit for Helen Reddy)
Everyone has those days when It's Not Easy.
There's Room for Everyone is about acceptance and inclusion. (Maybe there's even room for a new, updated version of this story.)
Obviously, nostalgia is not always rooted in reality.
I now know that Pete’s Dragon is not a great film, but it will always hold a warm, fuzzy place in my heart. I will value the film because of the cherished memories associated with it—time spent with my children.
Nonetheless, in spite of the limitations of old-school interface technology and over-the-top acting, the positive, powerful messages of this sweet movie still resound: unconditional love, the absurdity of prejudice and superstition, the nature of family, the value of every child, the wonder of imagination. Those are great lessons for kids of all ages to learn.
(And my husband...who is a kid at heart...loved it, so that's a new cherished memory! The Dragon is still in my heart!)