The hardest hurdle for any new take on Peter Pan to overcome is simply justifying its reason to exist.
There have been many Peters, many Wendys and many Captain Hooks. We’ve seen the story told this way and that, from most any point of view you can think of, and even seen the original story of the J.M. Barrie play and the animated version has been a fixture for going on seven decades now.
But here’s Disney serving up “The Boy Who Could Fly” and the Girl Who’s Really Good at Telling Stories once again as “Peter Pan & Wendy.” Sadly, you can make the case that this is one of the better “bedtime story” versions of this tale, as it’s perfunctory enough to be sleep-inducing.
We have a good Wendy, brought to lively life by Ever Anderson of “Black Widow” and one of her mother Milla Jovovich’s “Resident Evil” outings. Jude Law makes a ruthless enough Hook, who has his brooding, vengeful character “explained” via back story almost as thoroughly as the infamous Robin Williams/Julia Roberts/Dustin Hoffman take on “Hook.”
Yara Shahidi makes a perfectly pixiesh Tinkerbell and Alyssa Wapanatâhk is a fierce and fleshed out representation of the Native American girl Tiger Lily. Peter (Alexander Molony)? He’s a bit bland, and almost a non-entity in this take on the tale, which leans heavily on the “never growing up/growing old” thing as its overriding theme.
Asking Peter to explain his age-old emnity for Capt. Hook is usually explained away the way Peter dismisses the question here, “Because he’s a a pirate and I’m Peter Pan.”
“Pete’s Dragon” director and co-adapter David Lowery’s A-budget picture has terrific sets, a full on pirate’s brigantine and some lovely effects. The cave and the Canadian Maritime locations — Newfoundland and Labrador — are gorgeous.
The casting is as diverse as you might expect these days, and even The Lost Boys include girls, lots of them. “Representation” is always a good thing, but it cannot be the only thing, the main reason for bringing us a new “Peter Pan.”
Aside from reminding us that Peter Pan was the original ageist as well as being the reason “Peter Pan Syndrome” is totally a thing, it’s hard to figure out why we’re here. They’ve dispensed with the storytelling Wendy did at home, inspiring her brothers (Joshua Pickering, Jacobi Jupe) to take up Neverland-style sword fighting, with old-enough-to-go-to-boarding-school Wendy joining in.
Peter’s supposed to overhear a story and decide Wendy must come with him back to Neverland. He must have caught her act earlier in this rendition. Wendy’s urged to take steps toward adulthood by her mother, and as there’s no pushback of “romantic” interest in Peter (younger, shorter), that hangs over the film as its Big Theme, even if it’s no Big Thing.
There’s a smattering of music. Pirates do like the sing, even when Jim Gaffigan is our reliable first mate Smee.
And Molly Parker, playing Mrs. Darling, sings a bit of lullaby that Anderson repeats that is almost as good as anything in the Disney “Peter Pan” animated musical.
But the action beats are kind of half-hearted, and that’s the only time “heart” came to mind when watching this emotionally flat, somewhat dull attempt at bringing Peter to a new generation and keeping Disney’s brand attached to the 100-year-old-plus intellectual property dreamed up by J.M. Barrie.
Rating: PG- squeaky clean
Cast: Ever Anderson, Alexander Molony, Alyssa Wapanatâhk, Jim Gaffigan, Joshua Pickering, Jacobi Jupe, Yara Shahidi, Molly Parker, Alan Tudyk and Jude Law.
Credits: Directed by David Lowery, scripted by David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks, based on the play by J.M. Barrie. A Disney+ release.
Let’s be real. Jim Gaffigan is hardly a Charlie Puth. But, if it means getting me to see another Peter Pan movie, Mr. Smee better break a few rules. Know what I mean? 😂
I Think Yara Shahidi couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag
I Think Ever Anderson Is a Nepo Baby
“Think?” It’s easily looked-up.