Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Return to Never Land

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
1 hr. 12 min.
Year of Release:
Peter Pan and Tinkerbell in “Return to Never Land” Peter Pan and Jane in “Return to Never Land”

Starring: Harriet Owen, Blayne Weaver, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie | Directed by: Robin Budd, Donovan Cook, Ian Harrowell | Produced by: Chris Chase, Michelle Pappalardo-Robinson, Dan Rounds | Written by: Temple Mathews | Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Forty-nine years ago, Walt Disney and company introduced to us Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell, Wendy and the Lost Boys. We were transported into a world where children never grow up. This childhood fantasy has sometimes found itself embedded in reality. Quickly counselors jumped on the bandwagon and identified immaturity in adults as the “Peter Pan” syndrome. They also classified women who coddle or mother their husbands as (you guessed it) the “Wendy” syndrome. The truth is we all often long for ways to recapture our childhood. Parenting often gives us that opportunity as we spend time in play with our children.

“Return to Never Land” is the first sequel in a while that has skipped the direct-to-video market. It is decent entertainment for the younger crowd, but is not much better than some of the other recent sequels. It did give Disney a chance to dust off the original and repackage it in DVD and release it into stores. It also has allowed McDonalds to cash in on a toy boat that takes six pieces to build.

Our story ignores the original time line (your kids won’t notice) and places our characters in London during WWII. It is during the Blitz and the fighter planes are everywhere (just ask Captain Hook). Wendy is now a grown woman with two children. She must stay home while her husband is called into duty. Wendy tries to distract the children from events in the world by telling them stories of Never Land. The problem is 12-year-old Jane is not buying it and thinks that these stories are for babies. Can you guess what will happen next? Captain Hook and his pirates return to kidnap Wendy, but they end up with her daughter (family resemblances can be so hazardous at times). The Captain wants to use her to trap Peter Pan (of course!).

There are some new twists in the story. Hook is chased this time by an octopus. Some things in the story don’t change—the Lost Boys still are looking for a mother figure. There is an interesting and touching moment in the movie when Peter meets grown up Wendy.

The movie is a product of Walt Disney Television Animation. This group does mostly TV work and direct-to-video projects. It does not have nearly the prestige of other projects. It’s your basic afternoon fluff. Most of the story is as predictable as explaining to your kids why this is “only in theaters” (like they don’t know the routine by now). You’ll see nothing award-winning in this trip (even though the Academy has added a new category). The music, too, is just average. However, “Return to Never Land” is a safe and non-offensive outing for the pre-school and early elementary crowd.

Viewer Comments
Positive—The movie was, overall, done with somewhat of an allegiance to the original movie. What was odd—or maybe it’s just me—is that the movie is only an hour long. Nevertheless, the movie is cute, clean and delightful in its own right.
My Ratings: [Good / 3]
—Jeff Doty, age 42
Positive—My wife and I took our twin 4-½ year old granddaughters. We all enjoyed it. Nothing to disturb them or us. Its not a blockbuster of a movie, but a great afternoon out and a really feel good movie.
My Ratings: [Good / 3½]
—Lynn Erwin, age 53
Positive—I took my 5 year old to see this movie. She enjoyed watching it, as did I. I watched her face during parts of it to see it register concern for the little Tinkerbell and concern for Jane, as well as laughter and smiles during the funny parts. It is difficult to find a movie that is appropriate and enjoyable for young children. We both appreciated this one.
My Ratings: [Good / 3½]
—Gwen Schock, age 32
Positive—I liked Return To Neverland, I usually hate sequels because they’re never as good as the originals. This movie however, wasn’t as good as the first one, but it sent a very good overall message. It was cute and sometimes funny, there was absolutely no offensive material. Even I enjoyed it and I’m an adult. So, take your kids to see it, or even go see it yourself for that matter, you’ll probably like it.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4½]
—Jackson Albin, age 29
Movie Critics
…encourages children to have faith and trust in themselves… we recommend a RETURN TO NEVER LAND…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…MESSAGE—There is no such thing as a silly fairy story; It’s good for kids to unquestioningly believe in supernatural entities and they should be encouraged to do so…
Comments from young people
Positive—I took the kids I babysit to see this movie, and they loved it. One was five and the other was two. The both sat very still during the whole movie and didn’t get up at all. They both got scared during the more scary parts. After the movie they obviously forgot the scary parts and were saying that this was the best movie that they had ever seen. But then again don’t all kids say that after every movie?
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Katie, age 15
Positive—The movie was perfect for all ages. It brings back the child in us all. It is just as good as the first one if not better, with better animation. It was a great movie, even for teens!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Kate, age 13