Monday, February 22, 2016

'Pete's Dragon' Trailer: Something is Lost in the Renovations

Bryce Dallas Howard just learned that she won't get high heels this time
The enduring legacy for Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland reimagining will be how its success triggered Disney to scour their catalogue of quaint, charming, and cozy children's tales then transform them into modernize, polished, special effect extravaganzas with an edge. They're shaking up the warm family entertainment of many childhoods and crafting new pictures still deemed "safe for kids" but have some strong Lord of the Rings influences and enough toughness to lure the teenage boys away from their Xbox. If Disney wants to reimagine everything they've done into epic adventure stories then that is all fine, but something really seems to be lost in this Pete's Dragon trailer.

The original Pete's Dragon was about the whimsical imagination of children and how a make-belief friend can hold the same strength and importance as reality. There was an intimacy and comfort in that original picture, and I remember as a kid being able to relate to Pete and feel like I had my own friendly dragon when out in my backyard with only my creative mind to entertain me. The friends I conjured in my mind were real, supportive and integral.

My son now on a regular basis will tell me about an elephant that follows him to school and for whatever reason the giant mammal keeps peeing his pants, there is also a hippo that comes out of our pond for snacks, and when we leave for school, crocodiles arrive to chomp at our beds. These imaginary characters are crucial for my son's development and sense of play but also allows him to work through different milestones of his life. The original Pete's Dragon has that connection to childhood, but the remake seems to have lost that charm and magic to instead be some big boy with a giant creature on a high-stakes adventure. It wants to explain and analyze and ground fantasy into some modern reality. I'm not sure how much a big family creature feature is going to connect with audiences only a few weeks after getting Steven Spielberg's much better looking BFG. But at least Bryce Dallas Howard has lots of experience running away from giant reptilian-like creatures.


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