January 7, 2004 -- This is the best movie version of Peter Pan ever made. This lavish production features beautiful visual effects, especially the flying scenes. It has an excellent cast of actors, a strong storyline with character depth and a strong romantic angle that is largely missing from the other film versions of this story. There are also plenty of laughs. Director P.J. Hogan (“Muriel's Wedding” “My Best Friend's Wedding”) has made this less of a children's version of the story than the animated film and some other versions. It appeals to adult sensibilities more than some of the other versions. This is the film that “Hook” tried to be, but “Hook” fell far short of what is achieved in “Peter Pan”.
The cast is headed by Jeremy Sumpter of “Frailty” as Peter Pan and the lovely Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy Darling. Jason Isaacs of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” is quite menacing as Captain Hook (he also plays Wendy's father). The romance between Peter and Wendy is at the heart of the film and the whole business about the tension between parenthood, childhood and adulthood is well handled. Wendy and Peter, of course, are on the cusp of adulthood, and neither one wants to cross that boundary. Captain Hook doesn't really fit into this part of the story that well, nor do any of the adults (the Indians, for instance) in Neverland. The rivalry between Peter and Captain Hook is also a key part of the story, but I never did understand Hook's hatred of Peter Pan, other than the missing hand. Was it because he had a bad childhood? Captain Hook is a good deal darker, more evil and more dangerous in this movie than in others, but he remains mysterious. What is his background? What makes him tick? Is he some kind of megalomaniac?
Another story element is Wendy's flirtation with the idea of life as a pirate. It never really goes anywhere as a plot element, but it is kind of interesting. In a way, it might be an attempt to explore the father-daughter relationship, since the same actor plays both Wendy's father and Captain Hook. For that matter, such a father-daughter relationship would provide further motivation for Captain Hook to hate Peter Pan because of the romance between Wendy and Peter. There is an underlying sexual rivalry between the Hook and Peter. Yet another underlying theme is the relationship of Neverland to Hollywood. People in Hollywood never have to grow up because they can continue to indulge their fantasies forever and Peter Pan is just another example of such an indulgence. This is an enormously expensive film which is going to have a lot of trouble breaking even at the box office. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable film. It is going to be very difficult for the studio to make a profit on this film, at least in the short term. In the long term, it should generate a lot of DVD sales and should remain a classic film for years to come. It has a story sophisticated enough for adults and funny enough for kids, and it the beauty of its visuals is stunning. It rates a B+.
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