Disney does right for ‘Pete’s’ sake

Robert Redford as a grandfather is just awesome. Oakes Fegley makes for a pretty good version of Pete, and Bryce Dallas Howard is aces as a park ranger named Grace who enjoys hearing Redford’s tales of his encounter with this “supposed dragon.”

The animatronic dragon runs circles around the dated 1977 animated version. This new dragon, named Elliott, actually has hair, changes colors and can make himself invisible.

Dallas-based director David Lowery excels at handling the action with just the right amount of flare, along with a touch of subtlety when necessary. This is a big step up for a director who made the intriguing hybrid Western tale “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” in 2013. 

From the start, Pete is viewed with bewilderment as various people stare open- mouthed, wondering how a 6-year-old boy survived in the Northwestern wilderness. Fegley has the right amount of moxie to pull off the role, as when he has a fun time using toothpaste for the first time. 

It is cool to see how Pete learns to interact with the dynamics of the family unit and how he builds relationships with various characters, including a young girl named Natalie. She befriends Pete since they are roughly the same age.

The villain, Gavin, is portrayed by Karl Urban. He captures Elliott and has no idea what to do with him. Although he plays the role of the antagonist in the tale, his part has little to do with the end result. 

It was great seeing Redford getting back to his scheming roots that were an awesome part of Peter Yates’ little-known 1972 flick, “The Hot Rock.”  

In “Pete’s Dragon,” he has a plan in mind to help save Elliott from the disillusioned hunters who only have hate in their souls.

I really liked Howard as Grace because she was wearing sensible shoes and not heels as in last year’s decent sequel, “Jurassic World.” 

Also adding to the story was Wes Bentley’s Jack, Natalie’s father. Jack and Grace deal with the dynamics of small town life in the Northwest. 

Disney seems to know what it is doing right now. The company scored big earlier this year with Jon Favreau’s decent update of “The Jungle Book.” I gave it a B-, but the acting from young Neel Stethi was subpar to say the least. 

Later this year they have a big Thanksgiving release with The Rock in the animated “Moana,” which might be another hit.  

Believe it or not, next year they have a live action version of “Beauty and the Beast” hitting screens in March.

Grade: B+