(Don Chaffey, 1977)
I don't know what made me add Disney's partially animated live-action films to this marathon, but I severely regretted that decision about five minutes into Pete's Dragon
. I had a whole rant ready to go here, but I let a week pass before writing anything down, and now I can't really be bothered. I'm tempted to just say that the films insists upon itself — because it really does. The production and the performances are all so sincere and committed, effervescently proceeding headlong at full volume (it's such a loud film) with zero regard for all the script's shortcomings (it's such a stupid film). There's a sad, throwback charm to the film's attempt to cling to the outdated style of movies from a decade earlier (Oliver!
, Mary Poppins
). I had thought Doctor Doolittle
killed that dream, but I guess not.
The animation of the film is mostly a failure. For reasons that generally don't make logical sense, we only see the dragon Elliott intermittently; he spends most of the film invisible. That choice becomes a huge obstacle in terms of suspension of disbelief. The visual effect of incorporating the animated dragon in a live-action setting is far from seamless and takes getting used to; but every time Elliott reappears, that process of suspending our disbelief starts almost from scratch, and thus the illusion is mostly ruined. Compounding this problem is that Elliott's character design just feels too distinct from the surrounding world. In a cartoon, he'd probably be pretty charming — just an oversized, clumsy Scooby Doo. But in this overly bright, live-action world, the more muted hues of the dragon rarely mesh. There's one nice exception, when Elliott is sleeping in a cave, the darkness of which makes the effect more palatable. Otherwise, it's mostly a miss.
The songs and choreography are mostly unmemorable, except for a nonsense refrain that stuck in my head even though I (ironically) couldn't remember the words ("Passamamassy, Quoddamapoddy, Passamadaddy ..."). Helen Reddy has a perfect voice for this sort of film, though, so clear and pure. If only her acting were half as polished.
Please tell me Bedknobs and Broomsticks
won't be this bad.Grade: