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Review: Disney's ‘Pete’s Dragon’ – What parents should know

The latest live action remake from Disney is “Pete’s Dragon,” which was a 1977 film that combined live action and animation to become a beloved classic for many.

The remake also blends live action and CGI, but it reimagines the original story into a wholesome, earnest folk tale that plays on the audience’s emotions like strings on a guitar.

The movie opens on a family road trip with 5-year-old Pete and his parents, but an accident soon leaves Pete orphaned, alone and stranded in the forest. Within minutes, the audience meets Elliot, a furry, friendly dragon who rescues Pete when he most needs it. The two live happily together in the wild for several years when they happen upon encroaching deforestation, and a kind park ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) who doesn’t believe her father’s (Robert Redford) tales of once encountering a dragon in the woods.  She also happens to be engaged to Jack (Wes Bentley) whose lumber company is cutting down trees in the woods she loves.

When Pete (Oakes Fegley) is discovered by Jack’s daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence), he’s separated from Elliot and taken to the hospital. Meanwhile, Jack’s brother Gavin (Karl Urban) goes hunting for the source of the mysterious sounds he keeps hearing in the woods. When he encounters Elliot, he makes it his goal to capture the creature no one else believes exists.

The best thing about “Pete’s Dragon” is that it is absolutely wholesome, with none of the innuendo, suggested profanity, or snarky subtext that infiltrates too many family films these days in an effort to give sly nods to the adults in the audience. “Pete’s Dragon” expects the adults watching to revert to childhood during its approximately hour and a half runtime.

There’s also a strong theme of family, and of mixed families. Both Grace and Natalie are devoted to their widowed fathers, and Grace and Jack don’t even hesitate to take in Pete when it’s discovered he’s been orphaned.

However, if you’re planning to see “Pete’s Dragon” with kids, you should be aware there are a few scenes that might bother very young or sensitive children. For example, Pete is surrounded by menacing wolves in one scene. At other times, Elliot roars and fights back against men trying to capture him, who use tranquilizer guns and ropes in a somewhat violent encounter.  Pete also climbs tall trees, jumps off cliffs, and hitches a ride on a moving school bus — all activities some impressionable kids might try to copy.

That said, the worst thing about “Pete’s Dragon” is that it is at times overwhelmingly somber (you might want to take Kleenex), but it says a lot about a movie if it can make you feel such a wide range of emotions these days.

If you’re looking for a sincere, old-fashioned Disney film, you won’t find any better than “Pete’s Dragon.” At its heart it’s nothing more than the love story between a boy and his best friend, who just happens to be a dragon.

It is rated PG for scenes of action, peril and brief language. It is now playing in theaters.