Peter Pan Review
By Shawn McKenzie 12/29/2003
Everyone might yell at me for this, but Iíve always thought the story of Peter Pan was a little cheesy. The stage versions drip with Barney-like cheese, and the 1953 Disney animated version is only slightly more tolerable. Itís been forever since I saw the Stephen Spielberg take on it called Hook, but I remember it being one of my least favorite Spielberg flicks. Now writer/director P.J. Hogan has brought his more faithful adaptation of the original J.M. Barrie story of the boy who never grew up, and with the recent badly timed Michael Jackson scandals, it is also slightly creepy.
Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is a girl right on the verge of adulthood. She lives in a nursery in her London home with her two younger brothers, John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell.) She doesnít want to grow up, but a couple of things happen that convince her parents (Jason Isaacs & Olivia Williams) that she must. First, their nanny, a St. Bernard dog named Nana (Rebel), accidentally embarrasses Mr. Darling in front of his boss. Second, her Aunt Millicent (Lynn Redgrave) doesnít think that she is acting like a proper young lady, and has noticed ďa kiss in the right hand corner of her mouthĒ that is waiting to be given to the right young man (I donít know what the heck that means.) The Darlings decide it is time for Wendy to grow up and get her own room (Iím actually surprised she didnít have her own room before.) On the last night of sharing the room with her brothers, a boy who never grew up, Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter), shows up to convince Wendy to come back to his place, Neverland (which, in this version, is apparently in another dimension in outer space.) Peter has spied on Wendy before, listening to her tell tales to her brothers. After Wendy helps him capture his detached shadow, he invites her and her brothers to come back with him to Neverland where theyíll never have to grow up, and they can do cool things like fly and fight pirates. Peter is hot for Wendy, which makes his fairy friend, Tinker Bell (Ludivine Sagnier), jealous. When they get to Neverland, they meet the Lost Boys: Slightly (Theodore Chester), Nibs (Harry Eden), the Twins (Lachlan and Patrick Gooch), Curly (George MacKay), and Tootles (Rupert Simonian.) They also meet an Indian named Tiger Lily (Carsen Gray) that is hot for John. The weather is evidently controlled by the existence of Peter (it becomes good), which tells his enemy, Captain Hook (also played by Jason Isaacs), that he has come back. Hook and his crew of pirates, including Smee (Richard Briers) and Cookson (Bruce Spence), want revenge on Peter. Hook hates Peter because the boy cut off his hand and fed it to a huge crocodile named Tick Tock (because it had also swallowed a clock, which can be audibly heard whenever itís around.) Now that Peter is back, Hook will stop at nothing to kill him, including poisoning Tink and convincing Wendy to join the pirates. As Peter and Wendy have these adventures, they start to fall in love with each other, and in the end must decide if they really do want to grow up.
I do have to give credit to Hogan for at least one thingÖcasting a little boy to play the lead little boy character. Itís hard to believe, but in the almost one hundred years of the storyís existence, Peter has never been played by a live-action real boy. I wish they had cast someone other than Sumpter though, because he didnít bring to the role the mischief I thought it needed.
The reason I thought it was a little creepy is because Peter and Wendy engage in a flirtation that seems a little too mature for their 12-year-old ages. It goes beyond cutesy when Peter receives that kiss that Aunt Millicent was talking about earlier. I realize that this was an aspect of the original story though, and fortunately, it isnít gratuitous.
Other than Sumpter, the performances in this movie arenít bad. Isaacs himself stands out as Hook, and I hadnít realized that he was the same man playing Mr. Darling until a fellow critic pointed it out to me afterwards. I learned later that it is actually a Peter Pan tradition to have the same actor play both roles. It just impressed me that Isaacs was able to play both roles so differently that I originally thought that they were two different men.
The other thing that impressed me were the visuals. Hookís ship, the Jolly Roger, looked cool flying through the air. The fight choreography looked like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to me in the trailers, but in fact, that style could almost be argued to have started with Peter Pan, since he has always fought while flying.
While I still found Peter Pan to be a little cheesy (especially the whole ďI believe in fairiesĒ chant), it was probably the most enjoyable version I have seen so far. Yes, it might creep some people out, but I can guarantee you that Dr. Seussí The Cat in the Hat will creep you out even worse, so please take your kids to this one instead!
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