Second star to the right and straight on 'til... mourning?
First impressions of the straight-to-Disney-Plus "Peter Pan and Wendy"
Do you hear that tick-tocking? Do you remember what that means? Somewhere, a crocodile lurks, the timepiece in his belly counting the days since this predator swallowed Captain Hook’s right hand.
And that means a fantasy world — one full of whimsy, swashbuckling, children who don’t want to grow up, and cringe-worthy racial stereotypes — is just around the corner! Are you ready to go back… to Neverland?
I think everyone will understand if your answer is “No.” You’ve been invited back before. Several times, probably. And was the journey all that you hoped for? Or were you, like Wendy in most Peter Pan stories, relieved when you got back home from the realm of arrested development?
In the 70 years since Walt Disney’s animated adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic stories, we’ve seen filmmaker after filmmaker try to get a live-action adaptation off the ground. Most attempts, while well-intentioned, have only managed the equivalent of a few long-jumps; none of them have soared. I’m fond of P. J.Hogan’s 2003 version with Jason Isaacs as Hook. And the 1924 silent film is still a wonder. Steven Spielberg’s 1991 Hook remains the most talked-about, but it’s still frustrating for how it squanders Robin Williams’ inspired turn as a bad dad who has forgotten he was once the playful Pan. The thing’s to soggy with sentimentality; and Spielberg somehow forgets that pirate ships are meant to be seaworthy cinematic wonders, not harbor fixtures. (I'm still angry about this: How does the master of UFOs and flying bicycles and Indiana Jones car chases make a Peter Pan movie in which the ship never sails?!)
Still, there’s just so much potential in this story of lost boys who long for their mothers and refuse to grow up, fairies who pepper you with pixie dust if you shake them just right, and pirates who aim their cannons skyward at flying children.
I’ve been optimistic ever since I heard that Disney had given the ship’s wheel to director David Lowery. I’m still high on the head trip of his wildly imaginative 2021 re-imagining of The Green Knight — one of three films I ranked as my #1 of that year — so I couldn’t wait to see how he would make All Things Neverland new.
Alas, while Lowery’s Neverland is an enchanting destination — its dreamy London-by-night skylines, its exotic island environments, and its enchanting networks of caves offering epic possibilities — his idiosyncratic storytelling style seems stifled, as if the studio had promised him a puffy-sleeved pirate shirt and instead strapped him up in a straitjacket. The final cut reeks of studio interference, the results so dissatisfying that Disney has decided to bypass big screens send it straight to Disney Plus won’t put this on big screens, as if to punish an artist for thinking outside the box.
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