Movie Reviews

Peter Pan

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Rating: 8 out of 10
Movie Details: View here

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Cast:
Jason Isaacs as Mr. Darling/Captain Hook
Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan
Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy Darling
Lynn Redgrave as Aunt Millicent
Richard Briers as Smee
Olivia Williams as Mrs. Darling
Geoffrey Palmer as Sir Edward Quiller Couch
Harry Newell as John Darling
Freddie Popplewell as Michael Darling
Ludivine Sagnier as Tink
Theodore Chester as Slightly
Rupert Simonian as Tootles
George MacKay as Curly
Harry Eden as Nibs
Patrick Gooch as Twin
Lachlan Gooch as Twin

Summary:
With a strong cast, artistic effects, and a few new twists and turns, Peter Pan is a fun retelling of the classic tale that’s entertaining for adults and children alike.

Story:
This movie is based on the play by J.M. Barrie.

Unless you’ve been forced to live under the stairs by your evil aunt and uncle all your life, then you already know what Peter Pan is about. However, this is slightly different from the animated Disney version that you may be familiar with. Politically incorrect references to Indians have been removed in favor or more blood and violence.

Peter Pan is rated PG for adventure action sequences and peril.

What Worked:
I saw a screening of Peter Pan an hour after screening Return of the King. Admittedly, it was a very tough act to follow. However, Peter Pan held up very well on it’s own. While ROTK was action / fantasy, Peter Pan was fanciful action. It was a change of pace that worked very well.

There have been so many adaptations of Peter Pan that I had to wonder why anyone would even attempt to do a live action version of the story. I really hated Steven Spielberg’s sequel (of sorts) Hook. I also always thought Disney had already delivered the definitive version of Peter Pan. And with the way Michael Jackson has brought new meaning to “Neverland”, the idea seemed “iffy” at best. However, this live action version ends up being probably the best Peter Pan movie ever made.

First off, the movie looks fantastic. The sets are amazing and the effects are wonderful. While they don’t do anything groundbreaking as far as technology, the effects are used to create beautiful and striking fantasy images. When Peter Pan and the kids fly to Neverland at “lightspeed”, you see dozens of planets around as if in a child’s depiction of space. They then arrive in what looks like a lake of stars. It was quite cool. Another scene later on features dozens of fairies dancing at a ball. Again, it’s nothing groundbreaking yet beautiful nevertheless. The rest of the movie is filled with these moments where the CGI is really being used as art.

I’ve never read the original play by J.M. Barrie, so I don’t know how closely the movie follows it. I imagine this version is probably more faithful. However, there are a lot of differences from the Disney version. For example, we see a lot more of Wendy’s father and his life as a banker. We get a lot greater sense of her parent’s heartbreak at the kid’s disappearance. Gone are any songs about going to fight the “injuns”. In fact, that Indians in the movie are barely seen, yet still treated with respect. The mermaids no longer look like Ariel, but instead are creepy monsters ready to drown Wendy. We also see more and more fairies besides just Tinkerbell. Overall, these changes make the movie a bit more interesting because it departs from what you’re expecting or used to seeing.

The acting in the film is first rate. Newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood stars as Wendy Darling. This is her first feature film and she does a wonderful job. The whole story revolves around her and would sink or swim depending on her performance. Fortunately, she does the job well. She acts like the girl on the brink of womanhood and she’s able to transition from maturity to childishness with ease. Jeremy Sumpter is also good as Peter Pan. You can probably expect him to become the new heartthrob for pre-teen girls everywhere. Jason Isaacs is also excellent as both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. He does this balancing act very well. He keeps Captain Hook menacing while never making him too scary. He also never goes over-the-top like Dustin Hoffman or the Disney version. Isaacs also manages to be warm and friendly as the father. The supporting cast is also excellent. It’s fun to see Lynn Redgrave again as Aunt Millicent. Richard Briers provides wonderful comic relief as Smee. I’m a big fan of Olivia Williams, so I enjoyed her role as Mrs. Darling. The spunky Tinkerbell is also perfectly played by French actress Ludivine Sagnier.

Peter Pan ends up being a fun re-telling of the classic story and it’s entertaining for both adults and children.

What Didn’t Work:
The commercials make Peter Pan look like it is terribly dark. I joked that it looked like the Harry Potter version of Peter Pan. However, the movie isn’t nearly as dark and brooding as the ads make it appear. It’s actually quite lighthearted, bright, and fun. That being said, though, it is violent at times. Captain Hook cuts Pan’s chest with his hook. The alligator is scary for kids and may freak little ones out. At one point Pan and Wendy pretend to be the parents of the Lost Boys and he talks about how he’s going to kill the children for being bad. He proceeds to chase them around with a sword pretending to try and stab them. If things like that didn’t happen in reality it might seem more like child-like play. The reaction of the parents is also that of grieving parents of kidnapped children. Again, it strikes a little close to reality.

The film also stooped to some lowbrow humor. Tinkerbell farts in the general direction of Wendy. When the boys are caught in a trap and suspended in air, we are treated to a glimpse of their bare butts as Tiger Lily giggles at the view from the front. While these will undoubtedly be big hits with children, I didn’t think the story needed them.

I also wasn’t particularly fond of the ending where Peter can only beat Hook if he knows Wendy loves him. Not only was it sappy and sugary sweet, it made Pan way to dependent on Wendy in order to save the day. However, that’s just my own personal view. I think the story still works well.

The Bottom Line:
Get the kids out of the house and go check out Peter Pan while its in theaters. You’ll all enjoy it.

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