Four-year-old Pete is reading a storybook in the backseat of his parents’ car. The trip ends tragically, leaving Pete lost and alone in the woods with the wolves closing in on him. Out of the darkness comes a gigantic green dragon.
Most of the action unfolds six years later. Pete (Oakes Fegley) has named the gentle and playful dragon Eliott, and together they romp through the woods much like raggedy Mowgli and Bagheera did in The Jungle Book. Elliott is less of the fire-spewing and frightening variety seen in Game of Thrones or The Hobbit and more like a pet dog – he even chases his own tail – with the unique abilities of being able to fly and become invisible.
The pair goes unnoticed for years until forest ranger Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard) wanders towards their sanctuary. Even though her father (Robert Redford) has long regaled the children of the town with a tale of how he saw a dragon when he was a child, Grace remains sceptical until she meets Elliot. Meanwhile, Pete is intrigued to see someone like himself. He forms a bond with Grace’s boyfriend Jack (Wes Bentley) and then 11-year-old daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence), who is immediately wonderstruck by Elliot. However, deforestation brings civilisation to Elliot’s doorstep and into the crosshairs of a glory-seeking lumberjack.
Imagination and magic are infused into this fable about family, loyalty and belonging. Besides one awkward rivalry about misplaced ambition between timber-mill brothers Jack and Gavin (Karl Urban), the sentiment in director David Lowery’s remake of the 1977 animated film is wholly warm and fuzzy. Pete’s Dragon is perfect family viewing, and it might just want to make you want your own dragon friend.