Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Pete’s Dragon


Disney really wanted another Mary Poppins, and made two more attempts at live-action musicals with animation. The first was Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which was amusing but uninspired. This was the second, and it’s not much. It’s full of sometimes amusing slapstick, but that’s about all it has. The songs are not memorable except for one, “Candle on the Water,” which was nominated for an Oscar. The movie is altogether too boisterous, and never involved me in any of the characters. Pete never really comes alive, he’s played by a boy actor with no talent for either singing or acting. Elliot, the dragon, seems to fluctuate amazingly in size, but then I guess a magic dragon can do whatever he wants to. He’s too goofy to be very interesting. He bears a kinship with the critter in The Reluctant Dragon, who I also didn’t like. As for the headliner star, Helen Reddy … well, Angela Lansbury proved she was no Julie Andrews, and Helen Reddy is not even Angela Lansbury. She has no screen presence. She has a pleasant voice, and that’s the best I can say for her. Mickey Rooney (real name, Joseph Yule, Jr.) and Red Buttons (Aaron Chwatt) overdo the drunk act, and a little bit of Buttons stammering and shivering in fear goes a long way. We get a lot of that. (Side note: Did you know Mickey Rooney is still alive, going strong at 90? And he’s been in show biz for 88½ of those years. Trivia: His marriage to his current wife has lasted longer than his previous seven marriages combined. Eighth time’s the charm, I guess.) It’s not a terrible movie, it’s just not put together well. About the best thing in it is Shelley Winters as a hillbilly mother.