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Pete's Dragon
1977 - G - 128 Mins.
Director: Don Chaffey
Producer: Ron Miller
Written By: S.S.Field (story), Malcom Marmorstein
Starring: Mickey Rooney, Shelley Winters
Review by: Joe Jarvis
   

Elliot burns things with his firey breath. Too bad he didn't destroy this movie.
Ask a majority of film critics what they consider the worst period for the Disney Studios was and they will probably say the 1970s. I personally feel that is an overstatement. Okay, films like “Robin Hood” and “The Rescuers” weren't up to the standards of classics like “Snow White” and “Peter Pan”, but they were still fun. Yet I can see why one may call the '70s a bad Disney period. They probably saw the part animated “Pete's Dragon” which exists in infamy as one of the most atrocious films in the Disney canon.

The story is a typical Disney style adventure. Pete is a gangly kid who escapes trauma by working for the hill-billies thanks to his big, green and cheeky dragon, Elliot. They escape and Elliot makes himself invisible so that he won't go and scare everybody when they go into town. Unfortunately, Elliot still manages to cause trouble and things escalate from there. A lighthouse keeper's daughter named Nora finds Pete and takes him in. Nora is in crisis as her boyfriend is missing at sea. Elliot gets into a crisis too when dragon-hunters come to town. Then there's the predictable resolution and the whole thing stops. Phew!

Elliot is by far the best thing in the film. He is animated and makes the rest of the cast pale in comparison. Mind you, the rest of the cast weren't wonderful to begin with, so just about anything else would make the cast seem dull. Some of his scenes are easily the best in the movie. Pete's Dragon would have been a far better film if Elliot were on screen more often, instead of the untalented human cast who most of the time they are performing stupid musical numbers that are too long and painful to listen to. Maybe I'm being overly harsh, as the song Candle on the Water was soothing enough, yet the cast don't seem interested in what they are performing, an impression any musical should try to avoid.

What's worse is the pacing. The film's basic plot would make nice seventy-five minute entertainment, but instead it goes on for two hours. The first twenty minutes are acceptable, but after the opening gag scenes in the town, the film loses its way and I personally became uninterested. Filler is rapid throughout and even the acceptable Elliot scenes begin to seem tedious (only a little, though). There are many good special effects, but they evoke a weird feeling, similar to the feeling you get from the songs; they seem as if people were doing them in order to get a pay check.

This nothingy piece of seventies cinematic history isn't worth your time. I love Disney films in general and I recommend lots of them. Yet there are always exceptions to the rule, and “Pete’s Dragon” is one of them.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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