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Peter Pan
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The new live action version of "Peter Pan" is a heartbreaking movie. For every moment that had me in welling up in tears, there are two that left me either nonplussed or worse, blasé.
Mr. and Mrs. Darling (Jason Isaacs, "The Patriot" and Olivia Williams, "The Sixth Sense") are worried about their daughter Wendy. Wendy's Aunt Millicent (Lynn Redgrave) wants to reinvent the adventurous girl (Rachel Hurd-Wood) into a dull young lady. But a boy who can fly steals Wendy and her two brothers away from the dreary English existence to live amongst mermaids, lost boys and pirates. Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) and his rambunctious fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier, "Swimming Pool") sprinkle fairy dust on the three kids and they all fly off to Neverland.
Once on the island, they battle the vicious Captain Hook (also played by Isaacs) and his band of cruel pirates. Through their adventures, Wendy blossoms into adulthood, but Peter refuses to grow up and like the male in every modern relationship, turns bitter and vindictive rather than melt to her feminine charms.
But once Hook gets his nasty hand and hook on our heroine, Peter must at least grow up a little.
Director PJ Hogan ("Muriel's Wedding") and his crew do fill the screen with some resplendent images. Peter and the Darlings fly above the Earth's atmosphere in into a cartoonish solar system, filled with planets that look like glow-in-the-dark sponges. They zoom off to another universe in a colorful speed that evokes Douglas Trumbull's acid dropping experience in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Once at Neverland, the effects department made the red clouds look like fireballs while the blue, cotton candy.
Some of the sequences were golden. The fairy dance juxtaposed beside Peter and Wendy's waltz was stirring. A quick shot of the infamous ticking crocodile trapping Captain Hook between a rock is a great shock.
In a touching moment, Peter returns to the Darling home to find Mrs. Darling standing guard at the children's nursery. She has equated the open window as a safe return entrance for her children, while Peter sees the window as escape route to take his precious Wendy away from him. The two wrestle for the window, both desperate for the Darling kids in their life.
In the best scene, Peter Pan uses mind control to force everyone on the planet, including the pirates, to save Tinkerbell by saying, "I do believe in fairies." The scene captures the magic missing in the rest of this dark film.
Unfortunately, Hogan has created a gruesome children's film. Tinkerbell tries to kill Wendy; Hook guts a crew member and shoots another in the chest in cold blood which we witness up close. The mermaids are maniacal who attempt to drown Wendy.
Hogan doesn't know when to keep the camera on his subjects. Peter and Wendy's kiss, and their dance were compelling enough moments on their own merit, yet Hogan keeps cutting away to reaction shots that cheat the audience of an emotional payoff.
Wood is enchanting as Wendy, full of youthful energy but capable of great maturity. Sumpter had a dull drone of a voice that makes it difficult to care for him. He does have an engaging Peck's bad boy grin. Flirty but spiteful, Sagnier is delicious as a malevolent Tinkerbell. Even at her tiny size, her expressions are gigantic.
Isaacs also gives an interesting interpretation of Hook, not foppish like Dustin Hoffman. When we first see the character, we see his amputated hand. He resembles a Vietnam vet. This is not the first time that the same actor has portrayed Hook and Mr. Darling, but with this film, the correlation has not been made. Had Darling been more cruel or cold, his metamorphosis into Hook would have been telling.
Peter Pan had the potential of splendor, but this version is not much better than Steven Spielberg's disaster "Hook." If you're desperate for pirates, Yo Ho over to "Pirates of the Caribbean" instead. Grade C
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