By Chris Feil
It's at the outset of David Lowery's reinvention of Pete's Dragon that the titular beast is intended more as a puppy to our namesake hero. What follows is a sharp left turn from the original's vaudevillian slapstick, with the "boy and his dog" approach used as a distinguishing characteristic from the aimless original and as an easy emotional access point for the audience. Gone are the musical numbers (though the hipster rock is cranked up to 11) and the buffoonery in favor of something more genuinely wraught straight from the heart.
But more importantly, this iteration of Elliott the dragon serves to stir more than just cutesy, cheap surrogate affection. Lowery is unafraid of scaring the kids and making the grown ups weep along the way. What remains is a family film about coping defenses, especially how we lean on our furry friends in the face of trauma.
This nuanced angle is made plain in the film's stunning prologue, confidently announcing those stark differences from its source and the emotional rollercoaster to come. The film is fascinated by moments of magic in the real world, and luckily Lowery has conjured a film that does just that, from Elliott's reveal to the organic emotions it creates. Yep, we finally have some magic at the movies this summer.