Peter Pan

2003, Movie, PG, 113 mins


Simultaneously groundbreaking and remarkably faithful to the classic play about the boy who won't grow up, director/co-writer P.J. Hogan's version of the children's classic by J.M. Barrie will forever be the version in which young Peter was finally played by a real, live boy. Written in 1904, the story unfolds in a cozy Victorian London of Barrie's imagination, where the Darling family lives cocooned in snug eccentricity. Mr. and Mrs. Darling (Jason Isaacs, Olivia Williams) have a dog for a nanny and indulge their children shamelessly, allowing tomboyish Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) to romp with boisterous younger brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) when she should be learning to conduct herself like a young lady. Bold, quick-witted and adventurous, the unflappable Wendy accepts Peter Pan's (Jeremy Sumpter) invitation to the magical world called Neverland without hesitation. There, the Darling siblings meet the Lost Boys, a gaggle of unruly, unkempt youngsters; capricious fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier), Peter's guardian sprite; a pod of eerie mermaids; plucky Princess Tiger Lily (Carsen Gray) and the fearsome pirate Captain Hook (Isaacs), who hates Peter and lives in terror of the gigantic crocodile that devoured one of his hands and is hell-bent on snapping up the other. The film's special effects are state-of-the-art without being too obtrusive; even the CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON-style wirework is within the spirit of Barrie's play — who hasn't seen Peter flying across the stage on a wire, either live or on tape? Hogan's screenplay brings up a sexual undercurrent understated enough not to clash with Barrie's essentially pre-sexual vision but sufficiently present to vividly clarify certain relationships, notably Tinkerbell's jealousy, which makes perfect sense in light of Wendy's nascent charms. The tentative flirtation between Peter and Wendy — which both would deny with a resounding "Ewwwww!" — lends a faintly tragic air to his perpetual childishness; Wendy will one day be a woman as lovely and gracious as her mother, but Peter will always be a heedless youth. Isaacs very nearly steals the show as the vain and spiteful, but cruelly charismatic, Hook; casting the same actor who plays Wendy's beloved, mild-mannered father lends his characterization an unsettling frisson that goes unremarked but not unnoticed. Newcomer Hurd-Wood is an exemplary Wendy, spunky without being precocious, while Sumpter is game but somewhat underwhelming as Peter; there's something slightly forced about his boyish bravado, but perhaps the problem is simply that 20th-century adolescents aren't children. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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