Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
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Starring: Jason Isaacs, Olivia Williams, Lynn Redgrave, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jeremy Sumpter | Directed by: P.J. Hogan | Produced by: Mohomad Al-Fayed, Lucy Fisher, Patrick McCormick, Amy Pascal, Douglas Wick | Based on play by J.M. Barrie | Cinematography by: Donald McAlpine | Production Design by: Roger Ford | Distributor: Universal Pictures
Most familiar stories retold on film “grow up” in some new way—except one. Apart from the advancement of added computer graphics, Peter Pan appears as a fly-by-night reproduction with a few starry moments of entertainment.
P.J. Hogan (Murielle’s Wedding) and Michael Goldenberg have adapted this screenplay from J.M. Barrie’s play, presenting a coming-of-age story for Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd-Wood), daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Darling (Jason Isaacs and Olivia Williams), and a neice to Aunt Millicent (Lynn Redgrave). This story stays fairly focused on Wendy, but seems scattered to various other characters at the end.
Accompanying Aunt Millicent’s encouragement for Wendy to grow up and receive her first kiss are the added pressures from her father telling her it’s time to grow up—not to mention the attention paid her by a boy who flies into her bedroom. From the beginning of the story, Wendy is pursuing her first kiss and endeavoring to grow out of her childhood. Hurd-Wood gives one of the best performances in the film, but the fact that she is so young makes it difficult—even uncomfortable—to believe she could be engaging in any kind of romance.
The character of Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) is also appropriately played by a young actor, but somehow doesn’t carry the command one might expect for the Pan. Sumpter does a fine job at the boyish qualities of Peter, but it was hard to fathom him being the stellar fighter who once cut off the hand of Captain Hook. When we actually do see Peter and Hook fight, there are some elements of danger, but it is more enjoyable to view it as a kid having fun.
Along these same lines of childlike fun are a few moments kids will enjoy. When Peter takes Wendy and her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) off to Neverland, it is entertaining as they go flying through the sky—even space—to get there. The adventure of the story and the additional slapstick humor that is used will be some kick kids will get out of this flick.
Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) is played by the same actor who plays the father, Mr. Darling. This may or may not be detected during viewing, but doesn’t seem to be alluded to in any way. If it is noticed early on, it might present some uneasiness as you watch both characters interact with Wendy. One thing that is obvious is that Mr. Darling and Hook are complete opposite personas.
Considering Hook is a pirate, the film did seem obliged to make sure he came across as mean and evil. However, although he had the look and dress for the “bad guy,” he didn’t seem to come across as scary. To emphasize his persona, there are a few jolting moments where Hook suddenly kills his crewmembers whenever they cross him. We would expect Hook to be this ruthless, but considering the childish feel of the rest of the film, it seems more unnerving than necessary.
Ludivine Sagnier gives a cute performance as Tinkerbell, with her larger-than-life facial expressions, while also conveying the jealousy she has of Wendy. One moment centered on “Tink” that was a bit odd was when everyone begins chanting to help revive her when she nearly dies. They say, “I believe in fairies” over and over again until she finally recovers. Perhaps it was supposed to move us like sports fans shouting “Rudy!”, but it came across as more wearisome.
Peter Pan is a very tender story, and this production seems to not do any harm to it. While it is everything you might expect, it does leave you a bit robbed of any cathartic experience. And even though there is some good distance between this Peter Pan and the popular film Hook, it feels the latter still outshines it.
Violence: Moderate | Profanity: None | Sex/Nudity: MinorYear of Release—2003
For our other Peter Pan movie reviews see: Return to Never Land