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When Peter Pan grows up at last,
Forgetting all about the past,
Of Neverland, Lost Boys, and fairies,
He just settles down and marries
Wendy’s daughter Moira and
Becomes a father, dull and bland.
A businessman now, Peter spares
No time for Jack and Maggie’s cares,
Until they’re nabbed by Captain Hook.
The Pan has no clue where to look,
But Tinker Bell with pixie dust
Arrives, despite his lack of trust.
She spirits him to Neverland,
Where Hook has his kids close at hand,
But Peter’s weak and scared of heights
And not prepared for fights or flights.
So Tink compels old Hook to grant
Three days to sharpen this transplant.
The Lost Boys, led by Rufio,
Are quick to ambush those that grow;
They doubt this codfish is the Pan,
Yet Peter’s face persuades the clan.
His training yields no vindication
Till he finds imagination.
In the meantime, Hook ensnares
Young Jack by putting on such airs
To make the boy loyal to Hook,
The famous pirate chief and crook.
Though Peter’s shaken by this fact,
He finds his happy thought intact.
His love and hope of fatherhood
Bring back old Peter Pan for good.
He plays, he fights, he crows once more
And takes the battle to Hook’s door.
Pan rescues Maggie from her cell
And proves himself to Jack as well.
He duels with Hook and bests the fop
Before Hook’s swallowed by a prop.
Then Peter names his new right hand
And, with his kids, leaves Neverland.
Distractions will no longer be
A thorn for Peter’s family.

Steven Spielberg’s contribution to the Peter Pan mythos wasn’t especially well-received in 1991, but it has become a family favorite since. The late Robin Williams is perfectly cast as the grown-up Peter, combining his proven dramatic ability with the comedic juvenility of his man-child persona. Likewise, Dustin Hoffman owns the title role, utterly unrecognizable under the elaborate wig and pirate costume, and embodies both Hook’s villainy and his preening arrogance. Other excellent performances come from Bob Hoskins as the bearded Smee and Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell, whose “pixie” cut (J) and perkiness hid well her engagement turmoil at the time of the film’s production.

What many criticized was the film’s supposedly halfhearted re-creation of Neverland, but while it’s not the most memorable of wonderlands, Spielberg’s Neverland has a charm of its own. The sets are obviously sets, yet they somehow fit the story, as if recalling Peter Pan’s stage origins. The pirate village is a particularly impressive mise en scène, with all the theatricality of an elaborate play, which I sometimes prefer to the overly wrought CGI dream worlds that have become routine nowadays. The games the Lost Boys play feel like genuine activities such unsupervised youngsters would invent in a magical world, and they’re given more unique personalities than the Disney version, which essentially differentiated most of them simply by their costumes. There is silliness on both sides, as well as some pirate-y violence, but even when the film’s tone shifts, it retains a giddy adventurousness that is continually entertaining.

One aspect that raises Hook above other Peter Pan films is the message of fatherhood. The idea of Peter Pan growing up might seem unimaginable, but his desire for a family, to be a daddy, is an admirable reason for the end of a legend. While his focus on work at the expense of his family is practically tragic at the beginning, his fully-realized love for his kids creates a satisfying return to priorities by the end. In the interim is a fanciful tale of Peter rediscovering the joy of both being a child and becoming a father.

Best line (just the way Williams says it): (Peter) “I do not believe in fairies.”
(Tinker Bell) “Every time someone says ‘I do not believe in fairies,’ somewhere there’s a fairy that falls down dead.”
(Peter) “I do not believe in fairies!”
[Tink feigns an overly dramatic death scene]
(Peter) “Oh my God, I think I’ve killed it.”
Rank: 53 out of 60

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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