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PETER PAN (PG) (2003)

Universal Pictures

Official Site

Director: P.J. Hogan

Producers: Lucy Fisher, Patrick McCormick, Douglas Wick

Written by: P.J. Hogan, Michael Goldenberg; from the book by J.M. Barrie

Cast: Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lynn Redgrave, Richard Briers, Olivia Williams, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell, Ludivine Sagnier

Rating: out of 5

In both London and Neverland, Wendy Darling (Hurd-Wood) is renowned for her abilities as a storyteller, bringing princesses and pirates together for compelling narratives. Unfortunately, although Peter Pan features both princesses and pirates, as well as Indians, fairies, mermaids, and other fascinating characters that children love, the focus of the story took a wrong turn on its way to Neverland and became lost.

The story of Peter Pan (Sumpter) is a familiar one. He’s the boy who refuses to grow up, and lives in perpetual childhood on the island of Neverland, with his fairy Tink (Sagnier) and the Lost Boys. Bent on killing Peter Pan is Captain Hook (Isaacs) and his pirate crew, a mixed bunch of scoundrels who aren’t nearly as funny or interesting as the ones in Pirates Of The Caribbean.

Meanwhile, back in England, Darling siblings Wendy, John (Newell), and Michael (Popplewell) are aghast at the prospect that they must soon grow up. When Peter Pan comes and offers them an opportunity to remain children forever, they jump, or rather, fly at it.

It’s all well and good that the children are hesitant about becoming adults, especially when they are having so much fun playing. After hearing them complain, Mrs. Darling (Williams) told them patiently that growing up requires bravery, and that their father Mr. Darling (Isaacs) has braved adulthood for the sake of his family. Although it’s a nice message, the filmmakers seemed to have forgotten about following up on it.

What makes this movie so confused is that it tries to include a romance between Wendy and Peter as well. Wendy believes that love consists of feelings, and that it’s part of growing up. Peter refuses to grow up, refuses to have feelings, and refuses to love. But he does really like Wendy. Something is wrong here.

Ignoring the inconsistencies of the plot, the movie is fun, mainly because its characters are enjoying themselves in the story. Leading the way is Jeremy Sumpter (Frailty) as Peter Pan, who looks decidedly appropriate with his wide smirk and boyish attitude. Playing along are John (who looks suspiciously like Harry Potter) and Michael, who have so much fun they nearly forget their parents. Michael’s teddy bear has his own share of adventures as he, too, is chained to a rock at the Black Castle and even survives a beheading.

Peter Pan contains many slapstick sequences timed to elicit laughter from young audiences, as well as swordfights and gunfights for the slightly older children. However, the PG rating is not for naught, as those swords and guns often do meet their targets, and Hook especially is fond of shooting whomever displeases him. There is also a giant crocodile that looks big enough to swallow several men whole, and swims around the pirate ship waiting for victims.

Children will like the fairy tale quality of Peter Pan and the adventures. The imagery of the London skyline and the intricacies of Neverland will wow young and old alike. Especially breathtaking is one of the final scenes where fairies lift a sparkling pirate ship into the night sky. However, adult audiences will need to find more than scenery to sustain their attention.

—Kelly Hsu


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