Finding Neverland

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Johnny Depp as Sir James Matthew Barrie
Kate Winslet as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies
Julie Christie as Mrs. Emma du Maurier
Radha Mitchell as Mary Ansell Barrie
Dustin Hoffman as Charles Frohman
Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn Davies
Joe Prospero as Jack Llewelyn Davies
Nick Roud as George Llewelyn Davies
Luke Spill as Michael Llewelyn Davies
Ian Hart as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Kelly Macdonald as Peter Pan
Mackenzie Crook as Mr. Jaspers – Usher
Eileen Essel as Mrs. Snow
Jimmy Gardner as Mr. Snow
Oliver Fox as Gilbert Cannan

Special Features:
Commentary by director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein and writer David Magee

Deleted scenes with optional commentary by director, producer, and writer

“The Magic of Finding Neverland”

“Creating Neverland” on making the film

Outtakes from the film

“On the Red Carpet” from the film’s Hollywood premiere

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
Running Time: 101 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee. The following is from the DVD cover:

“Award winners Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Dustin Hoffman, and Julie Christie (Troy, Hamlet) star in this magical tale about one of the world’s greatest storytellers and the people who inspired his masterwork “Peter Pan.” Well-known playwright James M. Barrie (Depp) finds his career at a crossroads when his latest play flops and doubters question his future. Then by chance he meets a widow (Winslet) and her four adventurous boys. Together they form a friendship that ignites the imagination needed to produce Barrie’s greatest work! An enchanting big-screen treat with an acclaimed cast of stars, Finding Neverland has been hailed as one of the year’s best motion pictures!”

Finding Neverland is rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language.

The Movie:
If you grew up with Peter Pan like I did, then you’ll be quite interested in seeing this take on how the legendary play was created. While I can’t say how historically accurate the events portrayed are, Finding Neverland is still a very entertaining film. The way they tie together the key elements of the play and reveal their inspiration is quite clever. From the daydreams and fantasy games of young children Barrie pieced together the tale for both kids and adults. For this alone the story is worth checking out.

But the highlight of Finding Neverland is Johnny Depp’s performance as J. M. Barrie. I’ve always thought Depp was one of the best living actors because all of his roles are unique and no one performance is like the other. His performance as Barrie is no exception. He’s able to play Barrie as both a childlike adult and a respected playwright and make both believable. He makes Barrie seem like a caring father figure while making him simultaneously drift away from his wife. Throw in a Scottish accent, great chemistry with his co-stars, and a lot of spirit and it’s easy to see why his performance was nominated for an Oscar.

The rest of the cast is also fantastic. Kate Winslet is great as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. She does a good job playing a woman trying to keep her family together and raise four boys alone. Her relationship with Barrie is never weird or creepy and is a genuine friendship. She is a good match with the four boys playing her sons. They all bring unique touches to their characters which make them stand out. (Look for Freddie Highmore to re-team with Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.) The other supporting cast members are also first rate. Julie Christie is memorable as Mrs. Emma du Maurier, the overprotective grandmother of the boys. Christie makes her character sympathetic despite being one of the main antagonists. Radha Mitchell is also good as Mary Ansell Barrie, Barrie’s estranged wife. Dustin Hoffman returns to the world of Peter Pan as Charles Frohman. His skeptical reaction to the bizarre concepts and situations in the Peter Pan play are priceless. It almost reminded me of the reactions George Lucas got when Star Wars came along.

There are a number of effects in the film and most of them are quite subtle. However, those that stand out are impressive. There’s a fun sequence where they boys and Barrie are playing pirates. A very stylized ocean and pirate ship then appear as a backdrop. There are various other effects for Neverland and the play itself.

Finding Neverland is an excellent film with a sweet story. It is definitely enjoyable, but I would say it falls somewhere between being great and mediocre. It’s just a nice film. One of the only down sides to it is that they are obligated to address the accusations of pedophilia leveled against Barrie. It seems quite obvious that Barrie’s interests in the boys were entirely innocent, but the filmmakers have to bring those rumors to light and brush them away before continuing with their tale. Unfortunately this still leaves a bit of a dark cloud over the film despite the PG rating.

Who should see Finding Neverland? Anyone that is a Johnny Depp fan, a Kate Winslet fan, a Dustin Hoffman fan, or a Peter Pan enthusiast. Finding Neverland is also in the spirit of Big Fish, so if you liked that you’ll probably enjoy this as well. It may not be as good as the Oscar hype might lead you to believe, but it’s still a good movie.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD. About the only thing missing is a documentary on the real life of J.M. Barrie. Here are some of the highlights:

Commentary by director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein and writer David Magee – This commentary really could have used Johnny Depp or Kate Winslet contributing to it. Still, it is an interesting and informative commentary. The creators keep the conversation rolling and offer up all sorts of stories about the adaptation, filming the movie, etc. They tell funny stories about the actors’ antics on the set, too. If you enjoyed the movie this commentary is worth checking out.

Deleted scenes with optional commentary by director, producer, and writer – There are three deleted scenes and though they are all brief, they expand a little on themes from the film. One scene shows Winslet’s character telling Barrie just how much her family needs him. Another scene shows Barrie and his wife having a heart to heart about the growing rift in their marriage. A final deleted scene shows the youngest boy quizzing Barrie about why he didn’t have any children of his own.

“The Magic of Finding Neverland” – This is your standard “making of” video. There’s behind the scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew, and more. They really highlight Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet and their previous roles. There’s a lot of gushing going on here, but it’s well deserved. They talk about adapting the play, what they interpret the meaning of the film to be, the casting, and more.

“Creating Neverland” on making the film – This is a very brief video showing how some of the special effects were made. They highlight the pirate ship scene, an elaborate flying shot in the theater, and other moments.

Outtakes from the film – By the looks of this gag reel, it appears they had quite a bit of fun on this set. Dustin Hoffman is shown clowning around with the extras. Depp and Mitchell act out an entire dinner scene doing funny things (like grabbing food with their hands, acting drunk, etc.). Then there’s another dinner scene where Depp and the director got the kids to laugh by using a farting machine. All in all it’s a quite amusing gag reel.

“On the Red Carpet” from the film’s Hollywood premiere – This short feature shows Depp and the other cast members answering questions on the red carpet. Hilary Clinton is prominently shown at their premiere charity event.

The Bottom Line:
Finding Neverland is a sweet and entertaining film featuring fine performances by Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and the rest of the cast. Peter Pan fans will particularly enjoy it.

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