Peter Pan

More of the usual, ought to keep the kids happy but the parents will suffer somewhat.

Released in 2003, certified UK-PG. Reviewed on 03 Jan 2004 by Scott Morris
Peter Pan image

Peter Pan. Captain Hook. Wendy. Lost boys. Tinkerbell. A big crocodile. If there's anyone in the world who doesn't know the Peter Pan story then they ought to get out more, perhaps to the cinema to see this, the latest retelling of the timeless tale. I'll assume everyone else is familiar enough with the material to get the gist when I say this follows roughly J.M. Barrie's original story, eschewing the Hook style re-imagining of the 1991 film.

Jeremy Sumpter fills the role of the ageless flying boy wonder, and for someone who's going around in the press saying he's been born to play this role he doesn't half make a hash of it. With a whiny accent that's as changeable as the wind, it's a performance that will end up having the older members of the audience rooting for Hook to run him through. Jason Issacs takes the role of the crocodile afflicted pirate and makes a great job of it. I've seen his performance criticised as overblown with panto influences by people who have apparently thought they'd walked in on a serious documentary rather than a story that actually is an overblown panto. Issacs clearly has fun with the role and as a result he's the single best thing in the movie. He's rather oddly supported by friendly cuddly Richard Briers as Smee, which is a strange Piece of casting but works nonetheless.

Modern technology and these lovely computer thingamabobs allow directors to produce a range of styles and effects that would be a madman's dream but a few years ago, and director J.P. Hogan (brother of Hulk) uses this gadgetry to solid effect. The sets and backdrops are given an interesting makeover doing a remarkable job of looking like and storybook illustration. This almost works when the same boxes of tricks are used to have the kids magically fly through them, but still looks slightly strange. Obviously terms like 'realistic' have little meaning when applied to flying humans, but there's something just a little funny looking about the final product here.

Peter Pan image

This has one positive effect though, it's unlikely that in years to come this will suffer the same fate that befell movies like Independence Day, where the effects were used to get bums on seats rather than the story. It's less likely to depreciate with age, with the possible exception of the climactic mid-air battle between Pan and Hook. Didn't work in The Matrix Revolutions, doesn't work here. What Peter Pan can fall back that Independence Day and even The Matrix Revolutions cannot is a well loved story that's stood the test of time. What it doesn't do, however, is to tell it well enough to entice the bulk of the older people already familiar with the story to see it the same way Peter Jackson has with The Lord of the Rings. Okay, hardly a fair comparison but I'm sure you see the point.

Despite all of this I have no axe at all to grind with this film. Well perhaps the casting of the brattish Sumpter which lead to me rooting for Hook to win, but I'll be generous and say that's simply because of an exemplary performance from Issacs. The soundtrack, the effects, the acting; everything is up to scratch and passes muster, but doesn't do anything to involve anyone over the age of twelve in the same way that elements of Finding Nemo or any of the great kid orientated movies do. It's a movie that'll keep the kids entertained for an afternoon over this Christmas break, nothing more or less. And there's not much wrong with that, and little else to say about it.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.

J.P. Hogan
Cast list:
Jason Isaacs (Mr. Darling/Captain Hook)
Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan)
Rachel Hurd-Wood (Wendy Darling)
Lynn Redgrave (Aunt Millicent)
Richard Briers (Smee)
Olivia Williams (Mrs. Darling)
Geoffrey Palmer (Sir Edward Quiller Couch)
Harry Newell (John Darling)
Freddie Popplewell (Michael Darling)
Ludivine Sagnier (Tink)
Theodore Chester (Slightly)
Rupert Simonian (Tootles)
George MacKay (Curly)
Harry Eden (Nibs)
Patrick Gooch (Twin)