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Return To Neverland
2002 - G - 76 Mins.
Director: Robin Budd, Donovan Cook
Written By: Temple Mathews. Based on characters by James Barrie
Starring: Blayne Weaver, Harriet Owen, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie, Quinn Beswick
Review by: James O'Ehley
The biggest surprise about this sequel to Disney’s popular original 1953 (wow – it’s really that old!?) movie is (a) that it actually got a cinematic release instead of going direct to video that as it should have and (b) its short running time of a mere 73 minutes.

Actually I’m quite thankful about the short running time. Remember the Woody Allen joke about the woman who complains about the bad food at a particular restaurant? “Yes,” her companion would chime in, “the food is really bad and they have such small portions . . .”

“Return to Never Land” is like that: it is a really lousy movie and over much too soon . . .

Anyway, what passes as the plot: it is London during World War II and Peter Pan’s sidekick from the original story, Wendy is now all grown up with children of her own. To be honest I don’t know which is worse: suffering the Blitz and having the Nazis bomb the hell out of you, or spending time in the company of the annoying Peter Pan and his insufferable Lost Boys. Personally I suspect Wendy made the right decision . . .

Wendy’s daughter Jane however has grown up quite quickly because of the war and derides her mother’s stories about the fantastical Never Land as “poppycock”. Probably the only sensible and mature character in the movie, she is soon kidnapped by Peter Pan’s arch nemesis, the nefarious pirate Captain Hook and whisked away on a poorly rendered CGI flying pirate ship which makes those we later saw in Disney’s “Treasure Planet” look real good in comparison.

The incompetent Hook is out for revenge because Peter Pan stole his treasure chest. Why Pan did this (except for reasons of pure spite and malice) and where Hook obtained the treasure in the first place is never explained. As always Hook is accompanied by his sidekick Mr Smee, who looks like what the ‘Happy’ dwarf from Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” would look like if he ever actually grew up.

Soon she is rescued by Peter Pan who at first mistakes her for Wendy. Unlike Robin Williams’ Peter Pan in the dreadful 1991 Spielberg movie “Hook”, this Pan decided to never grow up – something we should be thankful for since we are spared the vision of a hairy-backed Peter Pan. However, Jane isn’t really interested in hanging out with Pan and his lot and wants to return her family – this somehow kicks in another subplot about making Jane believe in faeries because her attitude is somehow causing Tinker Bell to “lose her light” (whatever that might mean).

So the movie’s message is that kids should believe in fairies. Fair enough – but why do they have to endure such a ploddingly dull movie about them in the process. OK, OK, kids are an undiscriminating bunch and Disney’s media empire is built on this. Unfortunately their parents have to suffer if they decide on watching it with them. The story is trite, the dialogue unfunny, and the moral message suspect (we are in effect told that it makes one uncool to shirk one’s responsibilities, not exactly a message I’d want my little ones to take to heart).

Also, while the animation is workmanlike, it simply lacks the rich detail to make it anything else but simply adequate. The songs are uniformly unmemorable too. And hey, the first fifteen minutes or so of the movie depicting War-time Britain is so unremittingly dreary that it plays like “Disney for depressive kids.” Pass the kiddies’ Prozac, I say . . .

The only question when it comes to Disney’s sequels like this is whether one should watch it with one’s kids or not. In most cases the answer is no. Go wash the dishes instead: it’s more fun and you’re probably behind on your housework in any case.

(Oh, it’s still better than “Hook” though.)
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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