Peter Pan (2003)/Hook
Starring:
Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Richard Briers, Ludivine Sagnier, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell
Directed By :
P.J. Hogan
Grade
A-
 
Starring:
Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Charlie Korsmo, Amber Scott
Directed By :
Steven Spielberg
Grade
B+

Peter Pan (2003)

Synopsis: Based off the play and book by J.M. Barrie, this is a timeless classic popularized by Walt Disney's animated version. It follows the adventures of Wendy (Hurd-Wood), Michael (Popplewell), and John (Newell), three young English siblings who fly off with the storied adventurer Peter Pan (Sumpter) to battle Captain Hook (Isaacs) and his pirates in the land of Neverland. The story consists of a series of loosely connected adventures starting with the children's exodus from England and ending with a climactic showdown between Pan and Hook.

Who Will This Appeal To?: Peter Pan has a connotation as being a children's story, particularly because of the Disney movie, but actually it has a lot of more adult elements inherent in it. This version of the film in particular does a good job of being a movie for kids but addressing many of the underlying darker subtexts found in the story. In short, many adults will like it as well, regardless of how young at heart they are. For lovers of action and adventure.

Evaluation: Let me say that this movie has a lot going for it. It's extremely well cast. Jeremy Sumpter captures the spirit of Peter Pan better than any actor or illustration has ever done. Wendy and the rest of the cast are also picture perfect, and Jason Isaacs, in his double role as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, does possibly a better job than even Dustin Hoffman.

The production values on this film are great. Flying looks wonderful, and CG is used to great effect to help realize the rooftops of London, the surrounds of Neverland, and particularly the transition between the two.

The story to the film is wonderful. It adheres quite closely to the book, probably closer than any other version. Dialogue is taken straight from the book or play and made to work on the screen. This does present the issue of the story seeming somewhat fragmented towards the middle, as was the case with Barrie's book. In the book, you get the sense that many adventures have taken place and you are simply touching on a few of them. This sense is somewhat lacking in the movie, you are uncertain of the passage of time, but certain that something was missed. It is however, a minor shortcoming.

Moreover, the way the film is directed to make use of the story and actors is phenomenal. The many underlying themes present in the book are brought more to the forefront and made clearer by their presentation here. Wendy's sexual interest in Peter, and his reluctance to 'grow up' in this fashion is played well in a wonderfully adapted scene. Hook's motivations are delved into, and as such his relationship with Pan is cast in a new light. More importantly, the symbolism of Hook is brought to the forefront by Isaacs' casting in the dual (single?) role of Capt. Hook/Mr. Darling. I have to give credit to these elements to the director, as I don't see how anyone else could've pulled them all together to make such a complete vision.

The only real downside to this film, is that while directed quite well, Hogan also chooses to incorporate many elements just for the kids. Tinkerbell is portrayed rather slapstick-y by Ludivine Sagnier with the looks of a valley-girl and the anxious energy of a Chihuahua. It's not that far from the book, but frankly it's an area of the book that could've used improving on. And the "I believe in fairies!" scene is overdone to an extreme. In fact, there are several moments and scenes featuring the typical over-the-top slapstick humor prominent in so many child's films. They frankly feel a little out of place here, but you can grit your teeth through them and then enjoy the rest of the film.

Final Verdict: Not a perfect film, but probably the best Peter Pan film ever made. Kids will enjoy it, and adults will too. Definitely worth checking out.

It's All in the Details: Director P.J. Hogan is actually actor Paul Hogan's son. That's right, Crocodile Dundee is his dad. He usually works as a writer/director, but is more known for his romantic comedies such as Muriel's Wedding and My Best Friend's Wedding.

Hook

Synopsis: *************************SPOILERS************************
This film acts as a sequel to the events depicted in Barrie's Peter Pan stories. Upon Wendy's (Smith) return to England, Peter (Williams) had promised to visit and take her to Neverland briefly every Spring. But true to Peter's nature, he got caught up in other adventures and forgot about these visits for longer and longer stretches of time. One day he returned to England to find Wendy grown with her own daughter, and Peter decided to stay. Wendy had taken to adopting orphans, and so took Peter in and raised him as Peter Banning. As he grew, he forgot about his previous life as Pan. He grew older, settled down and started a family with Wendy's daughter Moira. He got a corporate job. Just when nearly all traces of his previous life seemed gone, Hook (Hoffman) follows to England to exact his vengeance on Pan. Finding his children instead, he abducts them and leaves a note for Peter to come and challenge him to win back his kids. Peter's (usually) faithful fairy companion Tinkerbell (Roberts) follows to England to help Peter get back to Neverland and remember how to be Peter Pan again.
*********************************END SPOILERS************************

Who Will This Appeal To?: The irony of Hook is that while it features more adults than ever, and is ostensibly a more grown-up story, the movie actually feels like more of a kid's film than Peter Pan. There's more than a little slapstick and silly lines. Aside from that, this is still an adventure film, but with more time spent on comedy and drama.

Evaluation: The strengths of this film are very similar to the strengths of Peter Pan. Steven Spielberg directs with his usual quality and strength of vision. The film attracted a fine cast of actors, particularly Hoffman as a surprisingly definitive Hook and Hoskins as a wonderful Smee. The production of the film is wonderful, with fanciful sets showing a bit of growth in Peter's absence, and depicting all four seasons existing on the island simultaneously. The story does a wonderful job of supposing what might've happened after Peter grew up, yet brings him back to his roots. It has a good character arc for Peter, as well as his children. The main weakness of the film is also it's story however. While it has darker moments to it, this is essentially a PG film. Meaning issues of Peter becoming what he most hated, of absent parenting, and of the fate and nature of the Lost Boys are dealt with only on the most superficial level. The heroes come through their trials relatively unscathed, and with a renewed vigor for life. And this is all presented in the typical early 90s kid movie flavor that we've become accustomed to. We never really fear for the characters, never doubt that there will be a happy ending. Ultimately, this is an enjoyable yet shallow experience.

Final Verdict: Hook is a quality film, but doesn't possess the layers that Peter Pan does. Ironically, kids may like this movie more, but grown ups will appreciate the retelling of Peter's childhood more.

It's All in the Details: Phil Collins actually has a cameo as Inspector Good, who comes to investigate the kidnapping. This was in the middle of his ten-year stint doing various small TV and movie parts from '86 to '95.

DVD: The DVD for Hook is pretty weak. Good audio and video but not a lot of options there. And no special features. This is definitely in need of a Special Edition. Though Spielberg doesn't do commentary tracks, some features on the special effects and other production aspects would be very welcome for a feature like this. It'd also be nice to see the assembling of such a great cast and the process of continuing the story of Peter Pan.

- - Jeff Light

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