Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
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.