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Peter Pan (2003)
10. Jan 2004 at 00:59
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The best review of Peter Pan I've read:

by Orson Scott Card:

It's a cut and paste so if you want to check out the original ..  here's the link:

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P.J. Hogan was already one of my favorite directors. I first noticed him with Muriel's Wedding, which he wrote as well, but what won my heart was his brilliant My Best Friend's Wedding, the best Hollywood musical in years -- though it was never billed as such.

But all that was prelude, apparently. With the live action Peter Pan that was released on Christmas day, Hogan has created something that I can only call perfect.

It's easy to forget, in the decades since Disney's animated Peter Pan changed the story into something lighter and frothier, that when it first appeared as a play in 1904 (it didn't reach print as a book until 1911) it was not perceived as being merely for children.

In fact, it had a profound influence on other writers, including J.R.R. Tolkien, as having something truthful to say about life.

And in Hogan's Peter Pan, the work reemerges with all its darkness, deep human longing, mythic roots, satirical wit, and, yes, splendor.

The casting is brilliant. Jason Isaacs, best known as the villainous Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, follows the old theatrical tradition by playing both the father and Captain Hook. He reveals a flair for comedy that is more than mere mugging, and without his fine performance, the movie would not work.

Delightful comic work is also offered by Lynn Redgrave as the aunt and Richard Briers(whom some of us remember fondly as Tom Good from the British TV series Good Neighbors) as Smee.

Nevertheless, the performances that speak most deeply to the heart come from the astonishingly magical young Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan, Olivia Williams as an ethereal Mrs. Darling, and Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy.

It is in the face of Jeremy Sumpter that the serious intent of the filmmakers is first revealed. This is not a boy cast for his cuteness, but rather for a disturbing mixture of beauty, love, and dangerous selfishness that make him at once attractive and scary.

In the story as envisioned by Hogan and co-writer Michael Goldenberg (and, of course, J.M. Barrie), Peter Pan has overtones of mythic godhood. When he's away from Neverland, it's winter there; things only come to life when he returns. Indeed, while this will sail right over children's heads, this version of the story owes much to the myth of Eros and Psyche.

These two children, Wendy coming of age, and Peter obstinately refusing to do so, show romantic love in its ideal and yet most dangerous form -- what it would be like if civilization did not protect children from its first stirrings.

Meanwhile, Olivia Williams shows the fierce loyalty and beauty of idealized motherhood -- what Wendy might become; the opposite of Tinkerbell, self-indulgent, fiercely jealous, and stupidly conniving.

The troop of Lost Boys join with Wendy's brothers to show one of the finest ensembles of boy actors since ... well, I was going to say "since Oliver!", but I must be honest and say that these kids are better.

There is darkness in this story; death is both catastrophic and casual and is always imminent. This is no benign, ineffectual Captain Hook; he is dangerous and filled with malice. More to the point, however, Peter Pan himself is dangerous, not just to Hook, but to Wendy and the boys as well. His adamant refusal to grow up is not benign. It is a rejection of responsibility, and ultimately of humanity. He will remain a god because to be human hurts too much. When you try to cling to something, its loss will make you grieve.

And in the reaction of the parents to the disappearance of their children, we see, not comedy, but tragedy. The phenomenon of vanished children -- kidnapped, perhaps murdered, certainly harmed --was not invented in the age of television. It was a great and terrible mystery in the late Victorian era, too, and while there is a kind of comfort in the story of Peter Pan, there is agony in it, too. Children without their parents; parents without their children; it is unbearable, and yet they bear it and make a kind of life in the shadow of loss.

So it's all here in this movie: The whimsy and delight (have there ever been better fairies onscreen?); the real-world story of families torn and damaged; the mythic tale of the god who abducts a mortal; the struggle between love and death; slapstick comedy involving large dogs knocking people down; and even some Wildean satire and wit.

There are a few special effects that were lacking -- but most were excellent; I might have wished for a more believable Tinkerbell, but the actress they cast, for all her mugging, does not interfere with the story.

But these are the normal imperfections that no movie escapes.

The perfection of Peter Pan is in its wholeness, its integrity. There are no attempts to pander to the modern audience, as in Spielberg's embarrassing Hook; there is no point where the story is altered in order to fit some foolish little film-school dictum, as occasionally marred even the wonderful Lord of the Rings.

Instead, Hogan made the movie that I always wished for without knowing it -- one that captures all the magic and terror and beauty and ugliness of childhood.

Our nine-year-old loved this story for the sheer, breakneck rollicking adventure of it. I loved it as a parent and a reformed child, and wept in places where my daughter had no thought of such feelings, because she has not had the experiences that the film called upon for resonance.

Hollywood likes to pass off drivel like About Schmidt and The Hours as art, but now and then a film like Peter Pan sneaks through to remind you what truth and beauty look like in a darkened theater.
« Last Edit: 07. Mar 2004 at 04:08 by cal-Q-L8 »  
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Re: Peter Pan (2003)
Reply #1 - 10. Jan 2004 at 09:45
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Excellent review!! Thanks Cal.

When I saw the movie in theatres a couple of weeks ago, I was so swept away by Jeremy Sumpter's beauty and talent that I didn't realize to what extent the movie itself was well done. I initially gave it a rating of 7, but since then my appreciation of it has never stopped growing. This review perfectly illustrates what was so great about the movie, namely, the fact that it dared to tell the story with all its complex and darker undertones, instead of dumbing it down to a watered-down Disney version.

I still think there are a few flaws with the film, but they are mostly technical and have to do with the fact that I am extremely critical of filmmaking in general. For instance, as Card said, some of the special effects are not as great as they could have been. There's a few other minor things, too. But overall, this is a great movie and I really look forward to seeing it again.
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Re: Peter Pan (2003)
Reply #2 - 10. Jan 2004 at 19:10
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Thanks, Cal.  Excellent review to share!   Grin

I mentioned those Lost Boys before Orson Scott Card did, though.  Tongue

Really, they were just as good to me as Jeremy Sumpter was, and the only reason I rated the movie a 9 instead of a 10 here in our own database is because I really didn't like the Tinkerbell character. When he says, "<i>I might have wished for a more believable Tinkerbell, but the actress they cast, for all her mugging, does not interfere with the story...</i>", I beg to differ with him.  She did interfere with my enjoyment of the movie with all of her over-bearing mugging, and I found her to be quite irritating.

I guess you can't have this story without a Tinkerbell, though, and the boys more than made up for her.   Grin

Sir J
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Re: Peter Pan (2003)
Reply #3 - 11. Jan 2004 at 12:13
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I went to see this film recently.It was so good Smiley
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