Adventure Blu-ray Review

'Pete's Dragon' Blu-ray Review: Disney's latest live-action adaptation is one of best family movies of the year

November 29, 2016Ben MK

In 2015 and 2016, Disney has given us movies about a caveboy and a good dinosaur, a young girl and a Big Friendly Giant, and an orphan and a talking bear named Baloo. Now comes another story about the special bond between a child and a fantastical creature — a remake of the 1977 live-action/animated classic, Pete's Dragon.

Directed by David Lowery, the new Pete's Dragon follows Pete (Oakes Fegley), a scrappy 10-year-old who's discovered living in the Millhaven forest, a sprawling green space situated in America's Pacific Northwest. Orphaned by a tragic car accident that claimed the lives of both of his parents some six years earlier, Pete is a mystery to Grace Meacham (Bryce Dallas Howard), the kindly park ranger who stumbles upon him. After all, how can a young boy survive on his own for all this time, and in such wild and potentially unforgiving conditions?

The answer, as it turns out, is thanks to a furry, green dragon named Elliot, who also happens to be Pete's best friend and loyal protector, and whom up until now has been nothing but a rumor stirred up by Grace's father (Robert Redford), the only other person to have come face-to-face with Elliot in the past several decades. All that is about to change, however, for Grace's future brother-in-law, an ambitious but misguided logger named Gavin (Karl Urban), has set his mind on capturing Elliot, and he plans to bring him back to civilization for all the townspeople to see.

What follows is a deceptively straightforward and heartfelt tale. But make no mistake: what Pete's Dragon lacks in edginess and narrative complexity it more than makes up for with the sincerity of its storytelling. Grounded in the terrific performances of its cast, this is the kind of film that doesn't come around very often. A remake that's markedly superior to the original, it eschews typical blockbuster conventions, with a net effect that's as spectacular as it is simple, balancing stunning special effects with a soulful story for all ages.

Just as Pete's Dragon earns a spot as one of the best family movies of the year, the film's 1080p Blu-ray presentation makes for a fantastic home viewing experience. Suffice to say, the convincing CG artistry behind Elliot — whose character design subtly echoes the look of his 1977 counterpart — comes across wonderfully, thanks to a top-notch image that boasts ample fine detail throughout, and which is bolstered by superb color saturation that brings to life the movie's generally warm and naturalistic color palette. Turning to the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix, dialogue and music are rendered with great clarity, as are the other elements of the sound design, which includes Elliot's low, rumbling "voice," the flapping of his massive, 80-foot-wide wings, and the roar of his fiery breath.

Disney's two-disc Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Notes To Self: A Director's Diary (7:31) - Director & Co-Writer David Lowery narrates this behind-the-scenes documentary that touches on filming in New Zealand, the cast, the action sequences, the visual effects and the production design.
  • Making Magic (2:12) - A brief look at Elliot, featuring soundbites from the cast and crew.
  • "Disappearing" Moments (9:12) - A montage of deleted, alternate and extended scenes, with a brief introduction by Director & Co-Writer David Lowery.
  • Bloopers (1:28) - Flubs and goofs from the set.
  • Audio Commentary - Director & Co-Writer David Lowery, Co-Writer Toby Halbrooks and Actors Oakes Fegley and Oona Laurence talk about filming various sequences, the production design, the cast, the musical score, shooting in New Zealand, and more.
  • "Nobody Knows" Music Video By The Lumineers (3:12) - A video for the first of two songs from the movie.
  • "Something Wild" Music Video By Lindsey Stirling Featuring Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness (3:45) - A video for the second of two songs from the movie.
  • Welcome To New Zealand (1:56) - In this promo for New Zealand, Director & Co-Writer David Lowery and Bryce Dallas Howard rave about their experience filming in the country.

Pete's Dragon is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of November 29th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 43 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on August 12th, 2016.

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