PETER PAN (2003) A film review by David N. Butterworth Copyright 2004 David N. Butterworth
*** (out of ****)
J.M. Barrie's classic tale is brought vibrantly to life by Australian director P.J. Hogan ("Muriel's Wedding"), a live-action fantasy that blends rich period detail with phantasmagorical special effects, some of which impress and some of which are darn right cheesy. For anyone (myself included) who has never quite fathomed why Spielberg's "Hook" was so poorly received, the $64 million dollar question (although Hogan's film clearly cost more to make than that paltry amount) is why another non-animated version, especially if "Hook" didn't do so well? For much of the time "Peter Pan" answers its own question: it's a solidly entertaining yarn with an underlying depth about what it means to grow up, or stay a child forever. Sticking faithfully to its source, this one is a lot like Disney's animated version from 1953 only darker, and features strong lead performances by Rachel Hurd-Wood as the conflicted Wendy, Jeremy Sumpter as the elusive Pan (a boy no less!), and Jason Isaacs as Captain James T. Hook (he played the heinous British redcoat who busted Mel Gibson's chops in "The Patriot"). Isaacs also performs double duty as banker father to his brood of Darlings, who fly off to Neverland (the magical fantasy island NOT Michael Jackson's California ranch) and quickly fall into the clutches of Hook's devilish band of cutthroat pirates (Richard Briers is fun as Smee). There's a scary CGI-rendered crocodile to contend with (well, not scary to the pair of five-year-olds with whom I saw the film) and some perilous situations but for the most part the film is bright and breezy, faithfully adapted by the director and Michael Goldenberg and winningly performed by all especially Olivia Williams, so wonderful in last year's "The Heart of Me" who, as Mrs. Darling, sits by the open window awaiting her children's return.
-- David N. Butterworth email@example.com
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