The classic story of Peter Pan is wildly reimagined in a ragtag epic. Lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Wendy must fight to save her family, her freedom, and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up.Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Just as he did in making Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), Zeitlin cast a non-actor, local six-year-old to play a major role--in this case a Rastafarian Antigua boy named Yashua Mack to play Peter Pan, whom Zeitlin found in a remote forested compound. And as with "Beasts," other members of the mostly amateur cast were discovered after a year-long auditioning process that considered some 1,500 kids. See more »
A well-intentioned but flawed attempt to reimagine the Peter Pan tale
Peter Pan done the way of Terrence Malick, Wendy is a version of the classic fantasy tale like we've never seen before but despite its visual beauty and moments of captivating magic, Benh Zeitlin's return to the directors chair for the first time since 2012's Beasts of the Southern Wild is a curiously misjudged experience that will leave many cold and disheartened rather than captivated and moved.
Shot on the island of Montserrat south of Antigua, in what acts as a picturesque volcanic locale captured in stunning 16mm form by Zeitlin and D.O.P Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, Wendy certainly feels larger than its small-scale $6 million budget would suggest on paper but Zeitlin's re-imagining of J.M Barrie's tale of the Peter and the Lost Boys lacks a certain something that would've gripped us in its tale of Devin France's Wendy and her adventures on the beautiful but dangerous island she finds herself on after venturing far from home.
Not too interested in a backstory leading up to the point where Wendy and her neighborhood friends join Yashua Mack's Peter on board a train then a dingy boat sailing towards Peter's home on the island paradise, where magical whales, grumpy old souls and ageless magic exists, the film features whimsy and Where the Wild Things Are like musings on growing old and the special time that childhood is but we never feel drawn to the characters in the film and Wendy often feels like a splattering of captivating imagery and moments around a far from engaging story.
Slow moving throughout, Wendy is in no rush to tell its tale and you can't help but feel as though around the half-way mark of the films 110 minutes that you've begun to see it all, Zeitlin feels unable to capture new magic as Wendy and her posse of fellow children meander from scene to scene with little flow or relevance from each scenario to the next, with there constantly feeling as though there are missed opportunities throughout to explore the emotional, mental anguish and ecstasy that such a magical place could draw out from its inhabitants.
You can't fault Zeitlin for trying something new and the film acts as a beautiful and almost something special example of a talented director creating a fresh spin on a frequently adapted property and his young cast try their best, especially considering many are acting for the first time but Wendy can't overcome its various faults as its great moments get drowned out too regularly by mismanaged ideas and happenings.
Final Say -
A frustrating film to say to say the least, Wendy is at times close to greatness but more often than not falters on its quest to achieve something special with a whole new take on a beloved tale. Zeitlin no doubt has another great film in him, sadly Wendy isn't the one.
2 glowing whales out of 5
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