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Peter Pan
2003 - PG - 105 Mins.
Director: P.J. Hogan
Producer: Lucy Fisher
Written By: J.M. Barrie
Starring: Jeremy Sumpter, Jason Isaacs, Lynn Redgrave,
Review by: Harrison Cheung

I *do* believe in fairies!
Watching a press screening of Universal’s holiday movie, ‘Peter Pan’, I was all too vividly aware of the power of peer pressure. A couple seats away from me, a couple of people were giggling at the movie, clearly amused – but not in a good way. On the other side, an older woman was nodding her head, smiling, as if lost in her own dreams of lost childhood. So, what did I think? Well, I thought Smeagol-like, do we hates it? Do we loves it?

The classic ‘Peter Pan’ most people remember is Disney’s 1953 animated musical. Don’t even think about Spielberg’s monstrosity, ‘Hook’. Based on the play by J. M. Barrie, ‘Peter Pan’ is one of those childhood stories that can be reinterpreted on so many levels. The refusal to grow old. The reality of responsibility. The importance of friendship, etc… But after the success of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, this new ‘Peter Pan’ looks like a marketing exercise in targeting kid audiences for the holidays – call it Indiana Jones for the preteen set raised on Hilary Duff and Harry Potter.

This ‘Peter Pan’ is apparently the very first live action version of the classic story since the 1920s! It's also the first time an actual boy has played the role as various TV and stage versions featured women as Peter Pan. Directed by Aussie P.J. Hogan who gave us the wonderful ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, ‘Peter Pan’ follows the original story and benefits from state of the art special effects and some fantastic cinematography and set design courtesy of the same bloke who did the vividly baroque ‘Moulin Rouge’. Set in strict Edwardian England, feral orphan Peter Pan (played by American actor, Jeremy Sumpter) takes Wendy Darling (Kate Beckinsale lookalike, Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her brothers off to the exotic jungle world of Never Never Land – a place where there are no rules, no adults, and no growing up. It's as unruly a place as London is starchy and stiff. Before it becomes a tween version of ‘Lord of the Flies’, bossy Wendy exerts some order, falls in love with Peter and soon faces off against evil Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) and his band of pirates.

For children, I suspect ‘Peter Pan’ is great entertainment. It's fast-paced and beautiful to look at. It’s ‘Pirates of the Carribbean’ meets ‘Harry Potter’ with completely re-thought mythical creatures like the scariest reptilian mermaids and other strange denizens of the jungle.

But where I have reservations about ‘Peter Pan’ is its attempt at double-entendre humor for the adults who may be accompanying their kids. There’s some unsubtle sexual innuendo and the camerawork seems to have a major foot fetish. Maybe the whole concept of ‘Never Land’ is now stained with dirty-minded connotations but the movie doesn’t do itself any favors with some odd glimpses of nudity and sensuality as well as the uneasy exploration of bursting puberty. And yes, there’s Tinkerbell demanding, “Do you believe in fairies?”

The cast is competent – like a Disney live action film set in England (think ‘101 Dalmations’). I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the movie was shot inside a set in England, Hollywood or Australia. Jason Isaacs, a movie villain since Mel Gibson’s ‘The Patriot’ and well-known to Potterheads as Lucius Malfoy gets dual roles as Captain Hook and as the kids’ father. And Lynn Redgrave adds some befuddled class as Aunt Millicent. Casting American Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan has mixed results but it adds to his foreign-ness with domestic English living.

As Christmastime viewing, ‘Peter Pan’ is fine family entertainment, but parents should be prepared to answer some probing questions from older kids since there are some scenes that might trigger a dirty joke or four.

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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