Peter Pan

Peter Pan


Reviewed by: Monica Wolfe Murray

Peter Pan, the boy who won't grow up, is back in a lavish film that remains doggedly true to the original story. In fact, I bet it will be exactly what most children imagine when they first read the book. Hence, little 'uns will love this cinema treat - and parents, too.

Here we go then: mum and dad go to a party, Peter Pan comes looking for his lost shadow, the Darling children fly off with him to Never Never Land and the adventure begins.

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Never Never Land is the home of pirates and fairies, Indians and mermaids, the Lost Boys, a ticking crocodile and Captain James Hook. It is a universe of blue waters, lush forests and pink clouds. It is a paradise with strict rules and monsters lurking beneath the surface.

Never Never Land only exists if you believe in it - yes, fairies still die every time a person doubts their existence. It is out of the reach of time; in other words, no aging, no growing up. Flight, a favoured method of locomotion, is achieved by adding a sprinkle of fairy dust to an ounce of imagination and a bunch of happy thoughts.

Words are powerful weapons - well used invective will break any flight and defeat an enemy more effectively than a sword. Stories are highly valued by all, from the smallest Lost Boy to the ugliest pirate. Oblivion is a terrible disease, or punishment. A favoured poison, used in assassination attempts, is a mixture of malice, jealousy and disappointment. A thimble is a kiss. A kiss is a small gift. Tick-tock spells crocodile.

There are little surprises in P J Hogan's Never Never Land: mermaids are scary and slimy; the crocodile is bigger than a boathouse; winter is a crippling season that coincides with Peter's absence, as well as illness and dark moods. Smee (Richard Briers) is funny and Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) entirely mesmerising. He is a volcanic presence, full of charm, menace and wit, but also a lost boy at heart, longing for stories and a mother.

And then there is one more surprise, but only for those who are grown up enough to see. You read it on Peter's face when he gazes at Wendy and you see it in Wendy's wonder and delight every time he is around ("Oh, the cleverness of you"). These kids adore each other. Their meeting propels each of them into a different adventure. She gets to go to Never Never Land, the hub of all her dreams. He goes on a guided tour of his own heart.

Peter remains the boy who won't grow up ("Growing up is such a barbarous business"), but is he not also the man who won't commit? In his arguments with Wendy, he regurgitates that well known male manifesto ("It's only make-believe, isn't it? ... You can't catch me and make me a man... Love? I have never heard about it... I want always to be a boy and have fun!").

Wendy wants to bring Peter back into her world, where he would be safe and loved, but where he wouldn't be himself any more, where he would have to grow up and store his dreams in the drawer. They fight like a married couple, trying to find their direction ("Mother and father are fighting again," report the Lost Children).

Jeremy Sumpter (Peter) is an uneven hero. The way he looks at people is more eloquent than his spoken words - the way he and the others fly is often awkward and the way he turns red when kissed, downright embarrasing.

It is obvious that Peter and Wendy live in incompatible worlds; each embodies the other's deepest longing. For Wendy it is adventure, for Peter the warmth of a family. To be together, one of them must make a sacrifice.

Both explore "the other side", with the bittersweet knowledge that their dream is out there, alive but unattainable. It must be left alone, put in a drawer.

The moment you know this story, you have grown up a bit. In the end, even Peter Pan has.

Reviewed on: 24 Dec 2003
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Lavish live action retelling of the JM Barrie classic.
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Director: P J Hogan

Writer: P J Hogan, Michael Goldenberg, based on the play by J M Barrie

Starring: Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lynn Redgrave, Richard Briers, Olivia Williams, Geoffrey Palmer, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell

Year: 2003

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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