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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Disneyear: Pete's Dragon (1977)

By the middle/end of the 1970s, the Disney studio was in crisis. The conservative management who ran the company kept on consciously producing films they thought Walt would have made back in the 50s and 60s. As a result, nearly all of the films being produced, most of them live-action, were not just throwbacks; they were generally all quite stale with it. Let's see if today's film, Pete's Dragon, is an exception to this rule or if  it's less than brazzle dazzle brilliance.

The story starts as we see a kid named Pete escaping his abusive adopted hillbilly family (yay for stereotypes!). He makes it out thanks to his best friend Elliot, a magical animated dragon who can turn invisible and acts as Pete's bodyguard. The two head over to a town called Passamaquoddy (try saying that three times fast!) to make a new start. Elliot unfortunately causes problems despite being invisible and the town blames Pete. All except a lady named Nora (played by Helen Reddy) who decides to give Pete a home. Then a con artist named Dr. Terminous (Jim Dale) and his assistant Hoaggie (Red Buttons) come to town to scam people with fake medicine. The only other person to see Elliot is the town lighthouse keeper named, I kid you not, Lampie (Mickey Rooney) and he tries to tell the two about the dragon. Hoaggie sees him and tells the doc that he's a monster. So now Doc thinks that if he can catch Elliot, he can use parts of him to use as medicine. Then Pete's hillbilly connection shows up to get him. Elliot and Pete stop them, asve the town, Pete gets a new home with Nora, Lampie (what's up with that name?), and her fiance Paul, and Elliot has to leave to help another kid in distress.

For a film with this premise, Pete's Dragon is surprisingly boring. There's not that much pizzazz to it, it's incredibly slow paced and runs far longer than it should. Most of the songs are forgettable and some are downright awful, most of the characters are forgettable, the acting is mostly below average, it's just mediocre all around. 

I say most because there are still some good things about this movie. Elliot, for one, is a nice character even if he doesn't seamlessly fit into his environment and the best scenes in the movie are with him. It's sad that he's visible in less than 20 minutes in the film because he's really the best thing about this film. The animation by Don Bluth is especially nice. My favorite scene is when Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons (two other things that make this movie watchable for me) in a cave. It's pretty funny.

I also like the song Candle On the Water. It's the only good song in the film and even got an Academy Award nomination. Helen Reddy's vocals are wonderful here. I kind of want to here someone else give the song a try. It's beautiful.

But that's where all the good things stop. Like I said, the rest is very mediocre. Let me state that I don't hate this film. There's a few good things about it. However, as an adult, I can see hardly any worth in this film. Though I can see some effort put into it, I still feel nothing from this movie. It's not emotionally engaging nor is it spectacular. I guess kids will like it just fine. I did when I was that age. Just keep in mind that there are better films you could be watching with your kids. 

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