I walked out of the theatre yesterday feeling like I spent the last two hours receiving the warmest hug a screen could possibly give.
Pete’s Dragon is, well, about Pete and his dragon, whom he calls Elliott. When his parents die in a car accident, five year old Pete flees the scene and gets lost in a forest. The sweetest dragon ever befriends him, and soon they are inseparable. They explore the forest together and Pete falls asleep curled into Elliott’s soft, fuzzy fur. Six years pass this way, with Pete growing into a lanky Mowgli-esque boy, and Elliott being his guide-protector-makeshift father figure forged into one. The story takes off when Pete chances upon humans – the naturalist Grace, her fiancé Jack and Jack’s daughter Natalie (who will all later become Pete’s adopted family). There is also a villain-of-sorts in the form of Gavin, Jack’s brother, who insists on cutting down trees and capturing the dragon to further his fame. Grace’s father Mr. Meacham puts in a few appearances too, as the man who saw the dragon when he was young. “It was magic,” he recalls, his eyes misting over. You bet it was.
The movie is aimed at children, and it takes its job seriously without being too cutesy or preachy. It manages to tell kids (and some adults, no doubt) about the importance of taking care of our forests, of being kind to all creatures, of looking out for one another. Even the villain isn’t very terrifying, he realizes the error of his ways. The movie is set in a cheery little town called Millhaven, where everyone knows everyone else, children play about without a care, adults mostly live in harmony with each other. It is an idyllic town, perfect for an idyllic movie.
Elliott looks more like a soft toy than a fire-breathing dragon. This might be intentional, keeping in mind the target audience. He is green, disappearing softly into the trees every now and then, as though he were not a dragon, but a sigh. The trees try to touch the sky and shafts of sunlight reach the forest floor through the gaps between the leaves. There is great beauty in this world, which we are only too quick to destroy. This beauty is magical.
Pete’s Dragon ends on a happy note. Pete finds love and acceptance with his new human family, and Elliott is reunited with his dragon family too. He has also finally learnt how to fly. My vision got a bit blurry every now and then – the 3D glasses helped hide my tears though. Elliott is the friend we would all like to have, more puppy than dragon.