Saturday, June 19, 2010
70's Cinema: PETE'S DRAGON
Like a Candle on the water, the light that seems to try to shine so brightly from PETE'S DRAGON, gets a little to soggy to hold on to the audience.
PETE's DRAGON was one of those films that i hated to an extreme when I was a kid. Whenever my dad would venture to the video store alone, he would always rent this or POPEYE and then have to hear my sisters and I scream to the top of our lungs that he rented this crap the last time he didn't take us along! My older sister just refused to watch and my younger sister got bored instantly. I tried to muster up the strength to sit through all 129 minutes of it, but I would peter out by the roasted apple scene. Which is a good 20 minutes into it. That is not a good track record. So once i decided to take on the 70's cinema series for part of this blog, I thought, "What a great chance to revisit Pete's Dragon." WRONG.
As far as kiddie movies go, I don't see how a kid could make it through the entire thing. As a family movie, it seems like a movie that just about everyone in the family would hate. I was very excited to get past the roasted apple scene and I actually got to Helen Reddy. Now, Miss Reddy(if you are nasty!) nails this role. She goes for it all the way. She sings, she dances, she acts and she runs the lighthouse! There is one scene where she bust in the local saloon that her drunk dady patrons and goes to town on a barrel. I was shocked and amazed by this scene. It is all singing, all dancing and all Helen Reddy doing her own dancing. Her face is priceless. She is concentrating very hard on not falling off, but there is one minute when she relaxes and she has her "I nailed it" face on! A joy. I actually forgot there was an animated dragon in the movie.
Before Don Bluth exited Disney and decided to create his own animation studio, he designed Elliot the dragon. Who, with his little dragon wings and purple tussled hair, is a pretty cute little critter. The handdrawn animation is jaw dropping and besides a couple of wires here and there, the special effect are still impressive. His conversations with Pete remind me of my conversations with Boris. Elliot gives Pete lots of sage advice in a language that only Pete can understand. Also, Pete is the only one who can see the dragon. Oh, unless you are the town drunk. But nobody ever believes a town drunk. Mickey Rooney plays the town drunk and as a rule of thumb, you should never believe Mickey Rooney.
Pete ends up escaping some hillbilly/swamp folks with Shelley Winters as the mom of the motley crew. Now, what i always love about Shelley Winters, is that she is always ON! Her mind tells her to go for it with every single role, because you never know when you will get nominated for an oscar for supporting actor. And sometimes you even WIN!
This film feels older than 1977 and not in a classic or timeless sort of way. More of like a dated and boring sort of way. Disney went for a MARY POPPINS/BEDKNOBS feel and I kinda got the feeling that PETE'S DRAGON had been kicking around the studio for a good ten years. 1967, this movie would have found a permenant place for some disney lovin', but sadly it just falls flat. Helen Reddy really wants it to work and she does her best, but the songs are way too much and don't move the movie along. Once the music starts, you feel like you are trapped like a wild animal. About the halfway mark I was ready to gnaw off an imaginary leg. I was really hoping Elliot would go on a rampage and start terrorizing the coastal town. Shooting fire out of his nose and gobbling up school children. No such luck. Just more songs.
This movie MUST have some sort of cult following. Crazy Disney nerds, dragon fans, Don Bluth nuts, Helen Reddy junkies. Someone out there must love it.