Peter Pan relates the battle between imagination and maturity for control of every child's soul. More importantly, it focuses on the battle between computer graphics and acting for supremacy over the Neverland that is film. If Pan represents the magic effects that are dominating the current film trend, Hook represents the weakening presence of decent acting.
Unfortunately, with most effect-driven movies, the graphics become more important than any other element. New effects films are forced to outdo the last in outlandishness. Explosions get bigger, stunts get more magical, and creatures get weirder. However, with each "improvement" the movie itself becomes less watchable.
Director P.J. Hogan went for a cartoonish look, which immediately establishes the tone: Let's wow the audience with technology. A good portion of the film is painted in colors from the extra large crayon box. Cumulus clouds are cotton candy pink and of a consistency between foam rubber and marshmallow paste. Hook's pirate ship floats in a sea that appears colored by the Lucky Charms elf. Fairies, fighting and flying scenes are fantastic, however, and will thrill the fantasy fan.
The performances in Peter Pan should be hooked offstage and the casting director forced to walk the plank. Wendy, Michael and John Darling are sickeningly precocious children. Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is particularly annoying, her cloying girlishness worsted only by her massive dental appendages. My god, she looks like she is performing a Polydent commercial.
It makes sense to cast an American as Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter), for Neverland represents the adventurous west in opposition to stuffy London. You may recall Sumpter as the devoted son of a demon killer in Frailty. He has the youthful joie de vivre of the imaginary boy without the veiled femininity impressed upon the character from countless excruciating stage plays. Peter Pan should have a dark side fueled by the hatred of all that is maturity and responsibility, which Sumpter evokes. Unfortunately he enunciates his lines as if he had a mouth full of Peter Pan peanut butter.
Jason Isaacs, playing the duel role of Captain Hook and Mr. Darling, has experience at depicting a villain. You may recall him as the malicious Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Isaacs pulls off a dastardly Captain Hook, blending murderous ruthlessness with the affected foppery of an ennui-ridden dilettante. His eyes really should get the credit; in one glance they say, "Please admire my lacey cuff as I gut you with my metallic talon." Isaacs also creates a fabulously flummoxed Mr. Darling torn between nurturing the innocent adventurism of his children and stifling their creativity to improve the family's future success.
But unfortunately Isaacs' performance is not enough to balance out the others' acting. Lynn Redgrave's short-but-painful appearance as proper Aunt Millicent was so hammy she should have had an apple in her mouth. Smee's mange-infected parrot put on a better performance than she did, and it was a computer graphic
Peter Pan demonstrates that effects appear to be winning the battle of film, to its detriment. It is probable, however, that this film will never land an Oscar and will likely be brutally panned. There is hope for Hook yet.
MOVIE REVIEW: PETER PAN
Peter Pan is hooked on effects
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