• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Pete’s Dragon

TITLE: Pete’s Dragon

YEAR: 1977

GENRE: Family and Animation

Films combining live action acting and animated segments or characters are nothing new. Ever since the 1914 silent short Gertie The Dinosaur enchanted Vaudevillian viewers, film studios have been using a combination of animation and live action whenever relevant. Disney was one of the forerunners of this unique combination starting with the 1945 The Three Caballeros and almost perfected with the 1964 classic Mary Poppins. Disney made a few of these movies in the 1960’s and 70’s, and Pete’s Dragon was last of these movies for Disney until the combination was resurrected in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Pete’s Dragon has enjoyable moments, but overall the film now appears to be quite dated and at times hokey in nature.

Pete (played by Sean Marshall) is a nine-year-old orphan with abusive step parents led by Lena Gogan (Shelley Winters) and no real friends other than an invisible dragon named Elliott (voiced by Charlie Callas). Pete runs away from his horrible adoptive redneck family and arrives in the idyllic town ofPassamaquoddy, Maine, and runs across kindly lighthouse operator Nora (Helen Reddy) and her eccentric seaman father Lampie (Mickey Rooney). Pete does his best to keep Elliott under wraps, but the dragon insists on following the young man around and ends up causing a ruckus at his school when Pete is disciplined  As the town discovers that there is indeed an invisible dragon in their midst the villagers are dumbfounded on what to do with their new visitor although traveling snake oil salesman Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) wishes to capture the dragon and turn his parts into cures for his traveling sideshow.

The problem with Pete’s Dragon is that the story is never completely fleshed out; we learn little about the dragon’s past or his purpose other than he needs to be there to help Pete through adolescence and never truly understand the ending. In addition, animation itself was not the spectacular and progressive work that one expects from Disney and is a few steps behind the similar production-wise Mary Poppins even though that film was thirteen years previous. The film is overly optimistic at times to the point of being sappy and many of the adults in the film have silly personalities and their actions throughout the film reflect this. This is especially true with the Gogan family which try to hard to ask like back woodsman rednecks with no brains. The sets are also not what one would expect from Disney and looks like some type of western tourist trap even though the film is supposed to take place in Maine (it was filmed in California). On the positive, the music is some of the most underrated in the Disney catalog: Reddy’s “Candle On The Water” is a beautiful piece with simple yet flattering camera angles and ‘Razzle Dazzle Day” is one catchy little showtune. I also enjoyed the acting job of Jim Backus, Mr. Howell on the legendary TV show ‘Gilligan’s Island”, as the city’s confused mayor.

I do have a soft spot for Pete’s Dragon as I performed a fair amount of the soundtrack in high school choir, and it was pleasant to revisit Passamaquoddy as it contains some adolescent memories. However, I found the return trip to be like an adult returning to a favorite childhood place: a bit nostalgic, sure, but seeing the reality more clearly and noticing the flaws make it lose the magic. It was nice to watch Pete’s Dragon once again, but a return trip probably will not be in the immediate future.

* * 1/2

–Mark

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