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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pete's Dragon is a delightful remake of Disney's 1977 live-action/animated classic. It's a throwback to Disney movies of the past: wholesome, sweet, fun, and exciting. That said, the "exciting" part includes plenty of peril and danger, as well as some sad moments. Pete is 5 when he's in a terrible car accident that leaves him orphaned and abandoned in the woods, which could definitely upset younger or more sensitive kids. But sweet, furry dragon Elliot takes care of Pete for several years -- until loggers threaten the wilderness and their home. Expect some tense, chases and disturbing scenes when hunters go after Elliot (a gun is pointed at him in one scene) and it appears he's dead. There are also a couple of mildly crude jokes. Mostly, though, this is a sweet film about love, friendship, finding family in unexpected places, appreciating nature, and opening yourself up to believing in magic. It also has clear themes of courage, empathy, and perseverance.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In PETE'S DRAGON, Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has always entertained kids with his story of a dragon that lives in the nearby forest. His forest ranger daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), thinks it's a tall tale -- until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley), a 10-year-old orphan who claims to have been living in the woods for years with a green dragon named Elliot. And now, with loggers threatening the wilderness, Pete must get back to help Elliot, even if that means leaving the people who could be his new family.
Is it any good?
Parents will love this sweet throwback Disney film, and their kids will be enchanted by Pete and his friendly dragon. Disney's original take on the story was mostly live action, with an animated dragon. The update is all live action, and it manages to make Elliot even more lovable and the story rich and engaging. It's set in the Pacific Northwest in the '70s, before cell phones and the Internet, when life was slower and kids had more freedom to go off and have adventures. Pete has been living with Elliot since he was orphaned at age 5, and their relationship is delightful to watch. Of course, it's a Disney movie, so it has to begin with parental loss -- and end with a fiery car chase -- but most everything in the middle is wholesome and entertaining.
Pete's Dragon is a little slower in parts than most films like it in 2016, but the characters are fully developed. Howard is appealing as the park ranger whose job it is to protect the woods and everything in it. Redford is charming as the grandfather who still believes in magic. And Fegley is wonderful as Pete; he makes the boy simultaneously wise, innocent, and very brave. Plus, there's a lovely underlying message that the wilderness and its inhabitants are to be protected and that we should take care of our family, however we find them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Pete is left alone in the wilderness in Pete's Dragon. Did that make you nervous? Why? His mother tells him he's very brave. Do you think you could be brave in that situation?
What parts of the movie did you find scary? Why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
What are the movie's messages about friendship and family? Does your family have to be people you're related to? Who do you consider part of your family?
How does this version compare to the original? Do you usually like remakes? Why or why not?
- In theaters: August 12, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2016
- Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley, Oakes Fegley
- Director: David Lowery
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy, Perseverance
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action, peril and brief language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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