The classic story about a boy who won’t grow up, Peter Pan hits the big screen in yet another version, this time featuring (whodathunkit) an actual boy playing the part of Peter. I had read the screenplay a few months ago, and thought it captured a lot of the darker, more adult elements of the book rather well, and was looking foward to its presentation on screen. Unfortunately, many moments had been cut out from the final film (which still ran about 105 or so), and as such it wasn’t as solid as I had hoped for.
The story sticks rather closely to the novel, and is faithful in many ways – from Nanna’s portrayal as a dog nurse, down to J.M. Barrie’s own instruction (for the play) that the same actor play both Mr. Darling and Hook. Jason Isaacs is rather good in this dual role, playing two-sides of a coin, as it were. I did stop to wonder, however, how many times we were going to have to watch Olivia Williams muttering things in her sleep on film.
The visuals were a bit off-kilter. It had a rather slap-happy look to it; with a surreal quality half the time, and distracting backlighting the other half. As such, the visual effects suffered. Musically, James Newton Howard’s score, which I had been anticipating, seemed to fall a little short of what it could have been. There were hints of a grand theme, but it never seemed to come to full statement. There were three moments in the film where I literally cringed, because for all the ‘traditional’ orchestral and choral work in this score, there was no place and no excuse for the Mannheim Steamroller-inspired synth and drums during the Flight to Neverland, “I Do Believe in Fairies” and End Title sequences. None at all. I’ll need to get the CD to make a more informed opinion, but my initial reaction to those moments were “ouch”!
As Return of the King is gonna break the box office for the next week or so, Peter Pan can slip in on Christmas Day and pick up the remnants. It’s a good family film, even for its faults. But more discerning viewers might wanna wait until video. But don’t worry – it’s still better than Hook.