While Pete’s Dragon is technically a remake of the 1977 Disney original, it bears little resemblance beyond the name and the presence of a big, green dragon. The movie feels more like The Jungle Book than anything else, and that’s a good thing. The characters have clear roles without feeling clichéd, while the plot is simple but not shallow. Ultimately, it’s one of those rare feel-good, family-friendly movies that’s actually a genuinely good film as well.
Pete’s Dragon begins with a four-year-old Pete riding in the back of his family’s car while they travel through the Pacific Northwest on vacation. However, tragedy strikes—as it seemingly does in every Disney film of late—when a deer runs across the road and the father swerves to avoid it. The car ends up rolling and Pete is the only one to escape the accident. When he hears wolves in the distance, he picks up his favorite book and runs into the neighboring forest where he meets Elliot, a big, green, furry dragon who saves him.
The movie resumes six years later as a now-ten-year-old Pete has made a home in the woods with Elliot. The pair has a seemingly wonderful life together when they stumble across a forest ranger named Grace—the first human that the young boy has seen since the accident. She would not be the last, however, as the local lumber mill has brought humanity closer and closer to Pete and Elliot’s home among the trees.
Pete eventually rejoins their world after he hits his head while being pursued by one of the mill’s workers. From there, the boy is largely torn between two worlds—the one he knows and loves with Elliot in the forest and the one to which he truly belongs with Grace and her family. But his attempts to merge the two prove problematic as Elliot, whose personality is more that of a loyal and loving dog than anything else, becomes the target of fascination and fear for the locals.
That struggle between two worlds and the feeling that, on some level, we seem to belong in both is common to many Christians today. We’re comfortable in our adopted home of this life but can’t shake the feeling that we truly belong somewhere else. That duality can be hard to manage at times. God knew it would be, which is why Jesus prayed that we would be protected and sanctified as we attempt to walk that line between worlds without crossing it (John 17:15–17).
In the film, Pete was only able to walk that line when he embraced who he was, and I think that’s the key for us as well. So often, we find it difficult to live in the world without being overcome by it because we lose sight of who we truly are in Christ: a new creation, called to see those around us through God’s eyes rather than our own (2 Corinthians 5:16–21).
When we see others as the Lord sees them, we are both reminded of the fact that we have been transformed through our relationship with Christ and filled with a desire to help them experience the same transformation. This perspective reminds us of where we truly belong and fills us with a sense of purpose while we remain in this life.
The problems come, however, when we grow so comfortable in this world that we forget our true home and come to identify so strongly with those around us that we lose sight of who we are in Christ. As Tullian Tchividjian warns, “Becoming ‘all things to all people’ does not mean fitting in with the fallen patterns of this world so that there’s no distinguishable difference between Christians and non-Christians . . . When this happens, Christians become miserably ineffective.”
There are far too many “miserably ineffective” Christians in our world today, and the vast majority don’t even realize that’s what they’ve become. The solution is, and always has been, to remember first who we are in Christ and to let that knowledge transform how we see the world around us. That’s how we walk the line between worlds and how God can best use us to help as many as are willing to find a new home in him as well. Which side of that line are you on today?