"All children grow up, except one" we are informed in the introduction to director Paul Hogan's visually exciting yet somewhat blunt true-to-source version of the timeless story of that boy who dreads aging and battles the nefarious Captain Hook. In keeping with the legendary nature of the tale, the movie is elegantly narrated and in a move that adds a flavour of authenticity, Peter Pan is indeed a boy and Neverland is far, far away from late 19th century England.
Neither the tale nor the characters need any introduction. They have become icons of our collective consciousness, from the tender Wendy to the bi-spectacled Smee. Peter Pan lives with his band of orphans in Neverland. He visits Wendy one full moon night and persuades her into accompanying him to a magical place where her storytelling antics will be put to good use. She agrees and they set off, accompanied by her younger brothers, much to the chagrin of her then absent parents (Olivia Williams and Jason Isaacs, in the first of two roles). With Peter's help, the lads learn to fly (its easy, just think happy thoughts!), but soon cross paths with Hook and his crew of ragtag pirates, leading to flimsy confrontations and complications of allegiance.
The movie lives in its own world, as it should, and the visually rich scenes lift and soar, helping create a unique blend of magic and whimsy. This is the Peter Pan of my, and everyone else's youth, though there are some missteps that could have been avoided to package a much better product. The icy cold milieu of Hook's ship, half sunken in a pool of a frozen lake is a marvelous contrast to the sunny setting of the children's hideout in the woods.
Jason Isaacs, quickly becoming the ideal villain of choice for fantasy tales (he also played a malignant character in the second Harry Potter movie) does double duty (inexplicably) as the perfect Hook who despises his arch nemesis yet realizes how dull and futile his existence would be without someone to channel all his hate against. The moral quandary is reflected superbly by Jeremy Sumpter who plays Peter as a carefree youth coming to grips with the fact that never growing is not such a good thing, especially if those around you move on. Tinkerbell on the other hand fails to leave a good aftertaste. She exits simply as the juvenile focal point of unfunny humour, though her fairy magic is wonderfully created.
Since a large part of the cast are mostly young unknown child actors, they can only do so much to keep things interesting long enough for us before we eventually get tired of their shouting and prancing about. Everything becomes too light headed and carefree, much like Peter Pan's attitude to life. There is little sense of danger, perhaps because the conclusion remains foregone for most. The thorough consistency of the visuals is hampered occasionally by over ponderous talking and a midsection that only waits for the alligator to show up and the finale to be setup. Nevertheless, it remains entertaining in great amounts, especially for the young ones, for whom it should successfully end up leaving a mark as a memorable experience. In a movie about a child whose age remains timeless, time really does fly; a testament to its spunky entertainment value. - Faizan Rashid