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Neverland (I) (2003)

 -  Drama | Fantasy  -  2003 (USA)
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Reviews: 23 user | 3 critic

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Melany Bell ...
Joey ...
Stephanie Kirchen ...
Liza (as Stephanie Orff)
Ryan Patrick Kelly ...
Ian Mantha ...
Eli Swanson ...
Zac Cole ...
Nibs (as Zach Cole)
Twin #1
Nathan Towry ...
Twin #2


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Never grow up. Never grow old.


Drama | Fantasy





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Motion Picture
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Performed by Karmacoda
Courtesy of Sola Music Publishing
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User Reviews

Amazing study in social satire with a classic spin.
20 January 2004 | by (NYC) – See all my reviews

A black Wendy? A juvenile delinquent Michael? A community college drop-out John? Obviously this isn't your grandparent's Peter Pan. These and many other stylish changes can be found in Damion Dietz's update of the J.M. Barrie classic, while sticking closely to the plot points of the original.

In fact, Neverland does follow the main points of the story fairly closely, which is scary considering the result. It's actually pretty amazing how easily Dietz was able to change certain plot points to make them fit a more contemporary backdrop. When he is introduced, Peter is looking for the keys to his car, nicknamed, appropriately enough, "My Shadow." Neverland is a run-down amusement park peopled by drug-addled "faeries" and runaway "lost boys." Tiger Lily is a performing drag queen from one of the park's cheezy revues. The pirates are costumed "cast members" of the park and Captain Hook a disgruntled janitor. Even the crocodile makes an appearance, in the form of a costumed nebbish whose one-night stand with Hook has him stalking the man for another "taste." All fit perfectly into the scheme of the Dietz update.

So much so, that when certain anachronistic fantasy elements are presented, it is pretty strange. Cute, but kind of creepy, too, given the hyper-real Kids-meets-Urbania motivations of this film. Especially when Tinkerbell makes with the "fairy dust" so that the "kids" can fly away to Neverland in a kaleidoscope of imagery and MTV jumpcuts with a grinding, hard-edged musical backbeat.

One aspect which could have used some fancifying, however, is the main character of Peter Pan. As presented by Dietz, he is an arrogant, snot-nosed punk; a poster child for disaffected youth and a thoroughly unlikeable hero who thinks he has the answer to all of life's problems. Oh, he's pretty enough, but whereas the Peter Pan of the original novel, was a high-flying sprite who was ageless and literally lived in a fantasy world, Dietz Pan is a brooding, whiney, trash-talking runaway, who simply refuses to grow up. Countered by a grounded and grown-up Wendy, who emerges as the true hero of the story, Peter comes across as the kid that everyone thinks is cool until the chips are down and he proves himself unworthy of the praise.

By contrast, the homoerotic motivations of Gary Kelley's Hook add dimension to what has always been a literary cypher. He fairly bristles with contempt for the lost boys living in the maintenance tunnels of the park, because they represent that which he has lost. His pomposity is also given a dark edge by his dead-end job as a janitor and his hate for the one "boy" he has always wanted, but could never have.

Setting the story in a theme park is an inspiration, as it allows for all the various fanciful "characters" which lend the novel its charm--pirates, mermaids, indians, etc.--to move about freely, without dragging the film too far from the reality it is grounded by. In the end, however, this updated version is pretty desolate and joyless, so don't expect to be humming "you can fly" when you're done watching it. If, however, what you're looking for is a creative and fascinating departure from form, a la the various contemporary updates of Shakespeare's work, then Neverland is an amazing study in social satire with a classic spin.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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