Peter Pan

Most people, for better or worse, believe that the classic 1953 Disney animated version of Peter Pan is the definitive version. Like most other Disney films based on old stories or fairy tales, they tended to sanitize certain elements. The original J. M. Barrie novel is still there, but a little different. This version of Peter Pan is a big-budget retelling that aims to be true to the original. This can be a dangerous thing to do, especially considering what a mess Roberto Benigni's awful version of Pinocchio, which quickly disappeared from theaters. Peter Pan does not approach that level of depravity, but, even after all the money thrown at it for special effects feels inert.

The story is familiar to everybody. Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter, Frailty) is the boy who will never grow up. He lives in Neverland with his friend Tinker Bell (Ludivine Sagnier, Swimming Pool, 8 Women) and the Lost Boys, fighting a never-ending battle with the villainous Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Passionada). Meanwhile in London, he listens to Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd-Wood) tell stories to her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell). Wendy longs for adventure, so when Peter shows up, she and her brothers eagerly go with him to Neverland.

Familiarity isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Peter Pan story by itself is enjoyable, and it would require actual thought in order to ruin it. Director P.J. Hogan (Unconditional Love, My Best Friend's Wedding) co-wrote this adaptation with Michael Goldenberg (Contact, Bed of Roses), and did inject an undercurrent of eroticism, that, thankfully, will fly right over the heads of children. Isaacs plays both Hook and Mr. Darling, and Wendy finds herself strangely attracted to Hook and the life he leads. Otherwise, everything plays without a sense of life and adventure that one would expect from a boy who flies and battle pirates. Except for Isaacs, none of the actors, particularly the children, have any sense of life about them.

It does look like Hogan spent a lot of money on the sets. The way he used it looks haphazard. He wanted Neverland to look like a fantastical realm brought to life, and it does, however, instead it looks somewhat fake. The colors are vibrant and bright, but the sets border on garish. The flying effects are marginally better; a scene where Pan and the children fly through space just looks tacky. Overall, Peter Pan is disappointing. Hogan did take the time to come up with elaborate sets and obviously used lots of money, but he left the core of the film, a story about growing up, underdeveloped. Small children will enjoy this new version, but it will most likely bore everybody else.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated PG for adventure action sequences and peril.

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