Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Peter Pan - You can fly!

The beauty of the old “Peter Pan” play was a flying Mary Martin, a woman playing a boy. It worked wonderfully. However, it wasn’t the true Peter Pan. We all knew it was Mary Martin’s tour de force. It wasn’t about a boy who never wanted to grow up.

Imagine a modern Peter Pan, where you’d actually see kids playing the parts -- live action, not animated. Not only that, but with modern special effects (presuming a healthy budget), you would see a lush Neverland and Captain Hook the way he should be, obsessed with ending all things wonderful in paradise.

“Hook,” right? Wrong. “Hook” wasn’t fun. It was stupid. The movie talked down to its audience. The casting was so wrong. The screenplay didn’t follow the book closely enough, mostly because it was consumed with star power that you couldn’t tell the other stories. Okay, so let’s add in another “must”: The movie must be as faithful to the book as possible, and fun. Fun for all ages.

Then take a look at 2003’s Peter Pan, featuring an all-British cast (except for American Jeremy Sumpter, who played Peter). It’s mostly a no-name cast, at least for viewers in the States, but we do recognize Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) in a dual role as Mr. Darling and Captain Hook, and he is absolutely stunning. Lynn Redgrave is an aunt, although we’re not sure why they need an aunt. The rest of the cast is perfectly placed. Rachel Hurd-Wood is wonderful as Wendy. Our Peter Pan in this adaptation is a simple boy, with simple pleasures. Don’t ask him to think too much or he’ll get into trouble. Jeremy fulfills this requirement with a great, dull stare. Other than that, he flies and fights really well.

Just in case you were in a closet when Peter Pan and Wizard of Oz adaptations made their way onto your television screen, the story goes something like this: Young Wendy Darling spends evenings telling stories to her two brothers in their London house, but her parents are pressuring her to enter adulthood and forget the ways of a child. Her father in particular is a cold, bespectacled accountant who doesn’t understand whimsy at all. One night, Peter Pan flies into Wendy’s room and loses his shadow. Wendy helps him regain it with her cleverness, and he talks the Darling children into accompanying him back to Neverland where they will never have to grow up, face problems and become boring. Once in Neverland, however, Wendy and the boys find that they’re facing graver problems than they could ever imagine with a bloodthirsty pirate and a jealous pixie. Wendy as a preadolescent has to also deal with feelings for Peter, feelings which he can never return, and a bunch of homeless boys looking to her for guidance.

This new Peter Pan creates a Neverland so enchanting, all of us would love to visit. This Neverland features lush green jungles, beautiful blue lagoons with pirate ships and enchanting (and dangerous) sea life, and much more. However, this new take on the old story lets you know that pirates aren’t the Disney buffoons you’re used to, Peter Pan is an innocent but is also a bit dimwitted, and Tinkerbell is too emotional to be anything but a thorn in everybody’s side. And watch out for that crocodile -- he’s waiting for you when you walk off that plank. Those who know the story realize that for every marvelous, hug-everybody moment, there is a dangerous one close behind. The fact that Hook actually uses that hook may be frightening to young children who watch this movie, but such a realization makes the story stronger in the telling.

The story you see here is delightful that, even though you know the ending, you wonder how all the characters will get there. The journey is amazing, but the ending, the growing up, must come sooner or later. Unlike any version of this story you’ve ever seen, you understand why Wendy must go back and why Peter does not go back with her. If the film is sometimes slow and the characters irritating at times, it’s probably because this reviewer left Neverland long ago. But she still enjoys visiting every once in awhile, just as long as she doesn’t have to walk the plank.


At 12:57 PM, Blogger DevonAlyse said...

I have always loved Peter Pan. Always.

But out of all of the adaptations of this story...my favorite is Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet.

Even though it is not Peter Pan in the same sense as the others it is still a very touching movie about JM Barrie.


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