This weekend, Disney's latest live-action film opens in theaters. Before you hit the box office, you're probably wondering: is Pete's Dragon appropriate for kids? The film is a remake of a classic children's movie from 1977 with the same name, which tells the story of an orphaned little boy named Pete who lives in Maine and has a best friend named Elliot who tends to get him into trouble. Probably because Elliot isn't a human — he's a dragon. Pete's basically the only person who can even see Elliot, so the adults in his life tend to think he's just telling tall tales about his imaginary friend. When things start to go south for the small Maine fishing village, they blame Pete for being a harbinger of bad luck and Elliot makes his presence known to protect him.
The original movie wasn't a hit when it came out, but many who remember seeing it as a kid consider it a classic. It starred Helen Reddy, Jim Dale, Shelley Winters, Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons. The film's music was nominated for several Academy Awards, including the most well-remembered song Candle on the Water, which reached No. 27 on the adult contemporary charts and is considered a classic love ballad even 30 years later.
The remake, directed by David Lowery, stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley Wes Bentley, Oona Laurence, and Academy Award Winner Robert Redford. The plot is a little different than the original: it imagines the events taking place in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, for one. Redford's character tells the story of his daughter Grace (Howard) a forest ranger who meets a mysterious little boy (Fegley). The child says he lives in the woods with a dragon named Elliot. With help from the community, Grace attempts to help the boy figure out where he came from and learn the truth about his invisible pal.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the reimagining of the classic tale 86 percent, saying the critics' consensus is that "Pete's Dragon continues Disney's current live-action winning streak with an update that gives the original a visual overhaul without overwhelming its sweet, soulful charm."
David Ehrlich at IndieWire calls it, "A warm, wistful, and wholly wonderful remake of a 1977 Disney musical that today's kids have never heard of and yesterday's kids have long since forgotten."
Even though these live-action remakes can be a little scary since animation these days is so lifelike (think The Jungle Book), critics say that as far as dragons go, Elliot is pretty tame. You might even call him cuddly — Stephen Whitty did: "Elliot seems less like a gargantuan lizard and more like just a very large, extra-sloppy Newfoundland."
Bilge Ebiri at The Village Voice seconded that, calling Elliot "the world's most adorable dragon."
Comingsoon.net reviewer Alan Cerny gave it a 9 out of 10 and said, not only is the film definitely kid-friendly, but a joy for the whole family: "Pete’s Dragon is for everyone – young and old, children at heart, who ever looked up to the skies and imagined great winged beasts dotting the sky and taking us on adventures of glorious flight."
And while the original film was a musical, this remake isn't. Still, the Pete's Dragon soundtrack listing looks amazing, with original songs by Lindsey Stirling, The Lumineers, and a score by Daniel Hart. A cool fact for parents? He's also composing the score for the remake of The Exorcist, a TV series coming next year.
But don't worry, the Pete's Dragon soundtrack is way more chill and cute than that's bound to be.