Peteís Dragon

 

                Itís a tragic beginning followed by a heartwarming story.  Little boy in the car with his parents on vacation.  Heís reading from his favorite book to them, about Elliott going on an adventure.  Suddenly the whole world changes.  Dad swerves to avoid a deer crossing the road, the car crashes, and the little boy, Pete, is thrown from the wreckage, remarkably unscathed---but his parents didnít make it. As Pete (Oakes Fegley) runs into the woods, crying, clutching his favorite book in his hand, the wolves literally begin to circle.  And thatís when the friendly dragon appears, runs off the wolves, and befriends the little boy, who doesnít know enough to be scared.

                Fast forward six years.  The boy has lived like Tarzan in the jungle, even building himself a treehouse, complete with a convenient dugout underneath it, where he and the Dragon, whom Pete has named Elliott, live happily together.  They fly above the forest, they play hide and seek.  (The Dragon has a decided advantage; he can make himself invisible.)  Pete doesnít really realize thereís something missing from his life, until he spots the first human he has seen in six years---turns out to be a Forest Ranger, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard).  At first, the contact is fleeting and awkward, but eventually, Peteís curiosity overcomes his shyness, especially when Graceís daughter, Natalie (Oona Laurence) easily befriends him.

                Thereís a subplot here of developers clearing the forest, which encroaches on the idyllic habitat of Pete and Elliott.  Even while Pete is drawn to Grace and her welcoming family, Elliott seeks to protect Pete from the clutches of the outsiders, until heís captured with knockout darts.  Now weíre rooting for Pete to not only free his dragon, but also to arrange a happily ever after that would somehow include a human family, which the perceptive Elliott also realizes is important.

                Itís a sweet story, though a bit unnecessarily complicated.  The animation is first-rate, and the veteran child actors are good enough to carry it, despite the sort of tepid presence of most of the adults.  This oneís for the kids.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1) Have you ever wanted to live by yourself deep in the woods?  What would be the attraction, and what would be the challenges?

2)  Do you think of economic development as being in opposition to preservation?  Is compromise possible?

3)  Whatís your favorite childhood book, and why do you think it lives on in your memory?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association