Finding Neverland

DVD Rating: **1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Emma Slawinski's film review of Finding Neverland
Finding Neverland

This DVD print looks great, with the colours strong, blacks crisp and the sound as it should be. But what of the extras?

As is so often the case, they're a bit of a mixed bag. Finding Neverland is a 16-minute gush-fest evidently constructed for the American market. Curiously intercut with scenes from virtually everything but Finding Neverland, this is, for the most part, just a love-in for the cast and crew - that Johnny Depp is such a wag, you know, and Kate's so good with the children. Once it hits the 10-minute mark, we finally get some meat when the filmmakers take a look at J M Barrie's backstory, but it's too little, too late.

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Creating Neverland is even more pointless. At a mere three minutes, it has hardly any time to share production details and ends very abruptly. Again, I find myself hoping wistfully that DVD makers will learn that one decent feature, which talks intelligently about several aspects of a film, is far more engaging than tiny snippets, chopped to make people think that the disc holds more goodies than it actually does.

On The Red Carpet is, again, intended for an American audience and passes in the twinkling of an "I love you, darling".

Some care has been taken with the deleted scenes - Pretend You Still Care, Only Grown-ups Can Have Children and Depending On J M Barrie - with director Marc Forster offering comments as to why they remained on the cutting room floor. For the most part, they are overly ponderous and wordy, with one scene in particular bordering on the farcical in terms of the portrayal of Barrie.

The Outtakes offer a bit of fun. Depp mentions his use of a "fart machine" in The Magic Of... and we get to see it in action - used to make the younger members of the cast laugh at appropriate moments during a heavy dinner party scene. My favourite, however, was the repeated sight of Peter Pan (Kelly Macdonald) slamming into the wall of the set each time they try to make her fly, which probably says more about me than the film.

The commentary is okay but it won't be transporting you on a magical journey any time soon. Forster is an intelligent commentator but the whole thing is deathly serious. Accompanied by producer Richard Gladstein and writer David Magee, he happily explains his choice of editing and the collaboration of the cast, but there's nothing that really makes this track stand out. The conversation about dropping the author's name from title, because "I don't think anyone has heard of J M Barrie" sounds ridiculous to a British audience and, slightly disconcertingly, it quickly becomes apparent that huge liberties have been taken with the original screenplay about the writer and with his life as a whole.

While, obviously, exposition has to be made to tell a good story, I found the magic of the tale ebbing away as I listened further. They seem to have been very acquisitive with regard to Barrie's ticks as well. Depp came up with most of the "contraptions" involved - such as a mirror on a stick which "didn't really exist" - while they nab character traits and dialogue from Neil Simon and Arthur Miller. They also completely gloss over the paedophilia spectre that hangs over Barrie, describing him simply as "asexual". Like the other extras on the disc, this lacks depth. It's a shame they couldn't have roped Depp in to lend a lighter tone, or, at least get him to operate his fart machine to give the rest of us a laugh here and there.

All in all, this is an average DVD that, unlike the children in the play, fails to take off.

Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2005
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Finding Neverland packshot
Loose biopic of Peter Pan author JM Barrie.
Amazon link

Product Code: D881556

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary from director Marc Forster, producer Richard Gladstein and writer David Magee; The Magic Of Finding Neverland; Creating Neverland; On The Red Carpet; deleted scenes; outtakes

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