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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Pete's Dragon: Fiona gives it two thumbs up

I took Fiona to see Pete's Dragon Saturday. She loved it. For her it was a feel-good boy and his dragon story. As we watched the movie, more than once she gave me a big grin and the thumbs up gesture.

I liked Pete's Dragon, too, but I saw the story as having roots reaching all the way back to the '50s science fiction film Forbidden Planet. That film featured a monster from the id. Morbius, played by Walter Pidgeon, conjures up the monster from the depths of his subconscious.

My gut feeling is that Pete's dragon is more symbolic, more allegorical, than flesh and blood. How such a creature comes to life is the question.  But like the animated snowman Frosty, only children have any understanding of such magic. In other words, at its very heart, this is a story but a story with a lesson at its core.

Pete names the dragon "Elliott" after the puppy in his favorite book: Elliott Gets Lost. The dragon Elliott is, at least to me, reminiscent of a large, green, oh-so-furry puppy. When the two, the dragon and the boy, splash about in a large, mountain stream, the bounding, frolicking dragon is at its most puppy like.

Early in the movie, Pete's mother tells her young son, "I think you're the bravest boy I've ever met." Near the end of the film Grace, the Forest Ranger who becomes Pete's adoptive mom, tells him, "You may be the bravest boy I’ve ever met." And I believe it is Pete's bravery and determination that conjures up a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't dragon. Pete's dragon has the ability to fade from sight, to become invisible.

The little boy lives alone in the forest for six years, alone but for his dragon and his bravery. He not only survives but flourishes. Living in harmony with nature, Pete has a depth of understanding of the wild world that easily surpasses our book learning approach. He lived where no one could and thanks to his experiences the boy sees and appreciates the magic that is Nature.

Everyone, even the greedy Gavin, who originally only wanted to cut down the forest to sell the lumber, everyone who comes in contact with Pete learns to understand the unseen and to appreciate the immense value of the natural world. And there is a corollary: mess with Nature at your peril.

In the end, it is not only Pete who sees a dragon. His adopted family, Grace, Jack and Natalie, also see the once invisible flying beasts. Once one learns how to look, how to approach the invisible, the world is filled with dragons.

But one must be brave.

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