PETE’S DRAGON: High Flying Edition DVD Review

     August 26, 2009

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Quick Question. How much Draino do I have to pour into my eyes to burn the images of this film from my memory? At this point you’ve got to be asking yourself why would a 40 year old man want to subject himself to at 1977, Disney release that got mixed reviews when it originally opened…

See, I got this 5 year old daughter who loves movies and occasionally Frosty offers a film I don’t have in the library and I jump at the chance to get something new for her to watch, so when I saw “Pete’s Dragon” being offered, I thought cool, and made the request…

To start off the beginning scared her. Hell, it kind of made me uncomfortable. Now let’s be clear, this is a little girl who loves the flying blue monkey’s from “The Wizard of Oz”, perks up whenever she hears the “Jonny Quest” theme, and thinks the man-eating Cyclops from “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” would make a good pet…. But there’s something about four inbred back woods people hunting down an orphan in a swamp that set her off. Maybe it was the make-up, maybe it was the horrible song that started the movie, or maybe, like me, she thought she was going to see a scene from “Deliverance”….

pete_dragon_movie_image_01.jpgThe film goes down hill from there. She didn’t like the design of the Don “Secret of Nihm” Bluth’s Dragon (I thought it stank as well), and by the time, the third musical number began, a bunch of drunks singing in a bar while vats of beer shot foam into the air like fountains, she walked out of the room. Me, I had to watch the rest of the movie on my laptop while she watched “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”…

Struggling through the remaining hour and half I was quickly reminded for the reason that Disney films was brought to the brink of bankruptcy in the 70’s. They could no longer afford upscale animation, the musical numbers weren’t catchy, the stories were bad, and the acting was of the same type found on every cheap program now running on the Disney channel now (a style which seems to find it’s origin in the Hal Roach shorts of the “The Little Rascals” from the 30’s).

And my complaints don’t end there. I also was disappointed by the female lead, Helen Reddy. Famous for her 70’s woman’s lib recording of “I Am Woman”, there was this period in the mid-70’s when “Ms” Reddy tried to transition in film. She did a bit part as a singing nun in “Airport 77″ (another stinker) and then she starred in this abomination. The problem is, she doesn’t have any charisma. Watching her in the film I kept hoping the scene would end soon and that, my friend, is the definition of bad casting.

There are few other name stars of the period; Mickey Rooney, Shelly Winters, Red Buttons, Jim Dale, but all of them are wasted on the material…

pete_dragon_movie_image_02.jpgWorse, you can see what they were going for. The premise is essentially the same as “Huckleberry Finn”; homeless urchin with monstrous family, whose only friend makes him an outcast and is eventually is adopted by decent family. Replace runaway slave, Jim with invisible dragon, Pete and the picture is complete, Hell, the story even has replacements for Finn’s, the Duke and Dauphin…

Tough one.

I really wanted to like this. Given the success I had had with showing my daughter “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and the original “Escape From Witch Mountain” I thought this would be a natural. Instead, I’m forced to give the DVD a family wide THUMBS DOWN!

Sorry Pete, but on the plus side, I got the DVD for free. I love free stuff!

VISUAL/AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Widescreen (1.66:1)

SPECIAL FEATURES:

This disk is loaded with extras, mostly about the musical numbers that I couldn’t stand in the movie, so while they are there, I can’t actually recommend watching them. Yikes! This whole DVD stinks!

FINAL WORDS

I remember what it was like to sit in the theatre and watch “The Little Mermaid” and to be swept away by the Broadway-lite lyrics of the feature. Leaving the matinee, surrounded by a theatre filled with little kids and their families, all happy and singing the tunes from the film, I felt that Disney had found its way home. This film is from the period when it wandered in the wilderness. After Walt’s death, trying to recapture the magic of previous successes by making cookie-cutter reproductions of past glories…

Well, I’ve seen “Mary Poppins”, I’ve loved “Mary Poppins’ and you sir, are no “Mary Poppins”…I’m gone…


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