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|Index||23 reviews in total|
It takes a lot to surprise me, but I was shocked by this. This has to
be one of the most subversive things I've ever seen... and not like a
porn version of "Alice in Wonderland" or something like that. This
low-budget movie very subtly and gradually melted away the Peter Pan
mythology and rebuilt it in the most disturbing way. It was as if the
filmmakers took the story of Peter Pan and forced it to grow up,
without changing its core. A masterful concept that was handled
extraordinarily well despite some obvious budget limitations. My wife
cried at the end of this film and couldn't stop. While I found it
challenging on an intellectual level, I didn't have the emotional
response that she did. When I asked her why she found it so sad she
told me that when she was young she would always dream that Peter would
show up and fly her away to Neverland, and as she got older she of
course had the "prince charming" fantasy. She told me that watching
this movie was like the symbolic nail in the coffin of that dream. So
not only did this movie freak me out, it made my marriage more
depressing. In any case, it was powerful, entertaining, and thought
provoking... and very captivating. So when someone says they hate this
movie and they want to throw the DVD against the wall, I can understand
where they are coming from.
Neverland delivers a strong, sometimes harshly realistic message, but we can't hate the messenger now, can we? Neverland gets an 8.
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.
This movie never promises to be anything that it isn't. The description
basically tells you that it's low budget and shot on DV tape. If you
were expecting Titanic or Lord of the Rings - then yes, you will be
If you go into it knowing that it's an independent film that was done on a minimum budget by someone just getting started in the business, then it's really not that bad.
Being someone who is just starting out in the world of movie making, I could appreciate the effort and work put into it.
So if you like weird, cult, independent, low-budget movies (and who doesn't?), then check this movie out. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being best), I'd give it about a 6 or 7. My friend thought it was totally weird and didn't like it at all.
I'll skip the plot summary, since we all know the story, don't we?
A great idea. I was excited as soon as I held the box.
Then the film started. A long, long, agonizingly long title sequence (consisting of someone taking random, wildly unplanned shots of a neon sign spelling the film's title) begs the mental image of the director saying "yeah, but when we cut it together it will look great".
Then we see the actors. Oh...my...GOD!!! Patronize your local high school's drama club, it'll be on that level. Peter tries, as does Wendy, to act, and the effort is admirable. They at least believe what they are doing. That doesn't make them talented unfortunately.
The show screeches to a halt at Neverland, with Captain Hook coming off like Uncle Ernie from Tommy, and a poorly written and executed musical number by Tiger Lily.
You have to lay this one at the director's feet. He BLEW a great idea.
I don't mind digital video, its a great way to introduce new talent who can't find the budgets other filmmakers can. But this? Blech. So many shots have poorly chosen color schemes meant to pass for style, and often it looks like someone smudged grit on the lens before rolling the tape.
Thank God Tinkerbell knows what she's doing as an actress. The bright spot in this wonderfully conceived but horribly executed mess. And Hook channelled Vincent Price to some effect, but somebody decided to mangle his performance in the editing room.
Having an ethnically and sexually diverse cast does NOT equal social commentary. I only say that, because the film does give off a "superior" air, indicating it was meant to mean something. Instead, it merely repeats the themes of the original text.
I do mind paying the rental premium for what comes off as someone's high school video project.
In short, great idea, horrid acting (save for Tink), awfully self conscious style, nice sets, terrible writing, inconsistent tone, some decent music.
The good things cannot overcome the three biggest flaws...horrid acting, mind crashingly bad acting (save one), and ridiculously amateurish direction.
2 out of 10
I agree with the other commentary on this movie. This movie is
in that it takes an otherwise "children's story" and sets in a
hyper-reality, very much adult, setting. This allows the more adult
of the story to be explored. Adult issues such as drug abuse, sexual
deviance, and avoidance of responsibility take center stage in this
While a grand experiment, this movie ultimately failed for me on several levels:
The cast of characters is far too large to allow for meaningful character development for ANY of the characters. The most prominent victims of this flaw are the lost boys. There are too many of them, and as such their decision to follow Wendy and leave Neverland seems more of a plot device than a real decision on their part, as is Peter's ultimate decision to return to Neverland alone.
The Darling kids' decision to leave their home in the first place home was another problematic issue for me. Sure, they try to explain it during Wendy's "story" to the Lost Boys in Tiger Lily's dressing room, but as is the case with literary writing, showing is always better than telling. And the short sequence with the parents in the beginning is not enough to show me the kids' rationale. Wendy telling it to me just didn't cut it.
And then there's the acting. Oh, the acting. "Bad acting" is being kind. It's a shame that an experiment of this caliber couldn't gain major funding and established actors, because the premise is fabulous. I find it very interesting that through most of the movie, the acting is horrendous from each member of the cast; however, the actors playing Wendy and Peter show their real chops during the last scene they play together. They both moved me incredibly during this final scene, and the fact that they were able to do so clearly demonstrates to me that the problem (at least for these two) was not the acting, it was the writing and direction. Both actors seem promising during this final scene, languishing in otherwise poor material. This movie felt like the writer began with the final scene and worked backward.
Overall, I love the premise. I related to Wendy's concern for the drug-addled man-boy refusing to grow up because, yeah, I've dated him, and she completely conveyed the frustration in trying to break through the haze and reach him intellectually. The DVD is watchable, although grainy in parts and particularly blurred during the pirate dungeon scene. Watchable once.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off - save yourself the time and don't watch this movie - it's
painful. If you are on the fence, and need to know why it's awful, and
aren't afraid of a few spoilers, then read on.
That being said, This film attempts to create a modern-day version of the original Peter Pan, with some very bizarre substitutions:
- a theme park called Neverland instead of an imaginary Neverland
- Janitors in exchange for Pirates
- A Janitor obsessed with S&M in exchange for Hook
- drug-obsessed run-away kids living in a secret room in the theme park instead of, well, normal kids living in a fairy land
- cocaine instead of pixie dust ... you get the idea ...
The film attempts to draw strange, inexplicable parallels between the story of Peter Pan, and the lives of a number of multi-cultural children who were adopted by horrible parents, and who eventually meet another group of horribly misguided kids who also hate their parents, but have an escape. This escape is what they refer to as "Neverland", which is actually a theme park, where they do all sorts of drugs and just have fun. I wish there was more to it, but that's pretty much it.
I think the deeper meaning that was *attempted* by this film was to ultimately produce a grandiose "Ah-HA!" for teenagers and people who have major issues with their parents the message being that 'they're not as bad as you think, and neither is being grown up'. It tried to accomplish this goal by showing how screwed up the lives of these delusional run-away kids really are. Unfortunately, as the ancient proverb goes, the path to failure is filled with good intentions. Such is the case with Neverland - a movie that is about as incoherent as it is shallow, slow-moving, and just plain boring.
If you liked Lost in Translation, you'll love this movie. Then again, if you liked lost in Translation, there's something seriously wrong with you. On the strength of the IMDb and Ebert and Roeper ratings and reviews, I watched both Lost in Translation, and Neverland, and in both cases I found myself 20 minutes in saying "man, I cannot wait until these bizarre plot lines and totally random scenes start making sense" and in both cases, they simply never did, continuing on their merry path to obscurity.
Humorously, I actually thought this movie until just recently, was actually called "Finding Neverland" and didn't realize that it was in fact, a year-old movie called "Neverland". Only just now did I realize that Johnny Depp was supposed to be in "Finding Neverland" and that of course he was not in what I just watched, so I searched for the term "Neverland" and found this. I read the plot outline, and sure enough, here it is.
I think one scene in the movie really sums everything up nicely - it was about a 3-minute series of shaky, blurry, bizarre camera angles watching a car drive around - at which point, I nearly turned it off, but I just couldn't do it - I had to find out if it would ever begin to make sense, and it just..never..did...
Amazing retelling of J.M.Barre's classic tale of a boy who didn't want to
grow up, and a girl who was growing up too quickly. Peter is a bipolar
juvenille deliquent, Tink is an alcoholic "fairy dust" addict with
Borderline Personality disorder, and Neverland is a sad, run-down
park, with Hook as it's "Director of Guest Services", which is a fancy
for Head Janitor.
Director Damion Dietz's vision was to "un-Dinsnefy" Barre's original tale, which is quite bizzare and disturbing, unlike the Disney version. He did an excellent job. You should definately try to catch this film at a festival or art-house, if for no other reason than the excellent performances of Kari Whalgren as Tinkerbell and Gary Kelly as Hook.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The strength of this movie is the story, which is now over 100 years
old. Neverland uses many lines of dialog and situations from the
original Peter Pan story, but tries to put them in a modern context.
Peter Pan now hangs out in a theme park, and Captain Hook is a
custodian trying to kick him out. Tinkerbell is a drug addict who
follows him around, and Wendy and her brothers are adopted teens who
can't wait to get away from their spoiled parents.
The acting was poor. The visuals and editing are amateurish. There were some especially silly montages that really weren't well timed at all, such as the one where the camera tries to focus on hook the same way Metallica's "Enter Sandman" video studied the wrinkled old man. The emotion that it evoked for me was a weary, defeated feeling.
If this was an attempt at commentary, it wasn't very effective. The actress who plays Wendy has a lot of scenes where she gets emotional, and the sentiment feels so false that the best word I can use to describe it is sappy. Same with Peter--his character tries to be very earnest, but his acting is so silly that no one can really care what happens to him. Hook was a bit more fun, as he got to play to the rafters, and Tink was likable. No one else really stood out, except when delivering lines as poorly as possible.
Overall, a very amateurish effort with a depressing tone.
Variety was absolutely correct when it referred to the movie as "... A
Dark Reimagining of Peter Pan." In the end however, a range of factors
led the movie to be nothing more than an attempt at breaking the
mainstream cycle of "acceptable" films.
The idea of taking the well-known story of Peter Pan and applying it to modern times, in an attempt to display current social problems is respectable and clever. What the audience received however was a movie in which the acting was lacking. Scott Mechlowicz surprising given some of his other works, appears dazed, and as if he is reading his lines off of a queue card. Melany Bell, although decent at times, tends to set the wrong emotions. Rick Sparks is just annoying as hell, and fails to really play slightly neurotic case of the "boy who wouldn't grow up." He comes off as more of the defiant adolescent, who rebels not because of his fear of society, or his fear of his inability, but rather due to his arrogance. Gary Kelley gave an excellent performance as Hook, although I would say that his performance didn't exactly fit in with the story-line, except for the fact that is disturbing, if not outright creepy. The majority of the other minor characters serve as nothing more than mouthpieces for the screenplay.
Transitions in Neverland are painfully slow. In that dull, menacing, and irritating montages continue for minutes at a time, prompting me to fast forward. It almost appears as if they were added to boost the time of the film, due to the fact that they add absolutely nothing other than substandard music, vexing sounds, and shamefully dull images.
The cinematography is by all means nothing special, nothing too innovative. There is one scene in which Hook is lecturing his employees that displays some amount of editing and camera talent. There were at times however, where the audio did not match the images on the screen.
Overall, this film is a decent introductory film for director and screenwriter Damion Dietz. It tried to take a good idea and make a good film, but in my opinion failed. It relied too much upon stereotypical understandings of society's youth, an odd, if not unnecessary overriding homosexuality component, and what appears to be attempt to manipulate every aspect of Peter Pan as much as possible. It did, honestly, try to emulate the book more than say, the Disney version, but the extremes to which it is taken results in something of chaos.
Also, it is interesting to note that a large majority of the highly positive reviews were the first, and only reviews of some IMDb members.
Since a young age, I have been in love with the story of Peter Pan. This version of the story is no exception. This movie had the potential to be brilliant, but it does not deliver. I loved the disenfranchised Darling children, but their characters could have been more developed. If the movie had been longer, it may have done this properly. There were so many loose ends that were never explained, such as Tinkerbell's child and who exactly was Wendy's boyfriend and what did he have to do with the story? The acting was horrible in the beginning, but progressively got better, tanks in large part to the actors who played Tinkerbell and Peter Pan. The plot is so wonderful and the ideas and cinematography are enchanting, but if only the director took a little more time on the details, instead of just chain of random events from the book, then this movie could have been on of my favorites. So for shear creativity and story, I gave this movie a 7. Plus the guy who plays Peter is uber dreamy.
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