Peter Pan and Wendy: Peter Pan (Molony) comes to visit Wendy Darling (Anderson) and her brothers the night before she leaves for boarding school. He leads them to Neverland, and they encounter fairy magic, meet the Lost Boys, and fight Captain Hook (Law).
Peter Pan and Wendy Movie Review
The most crucial aspect of Peter Pan and Wendy that filmmaker David Lowery nails are that it’s never been about Peter. Lowery’s Disney live-action reworking gives Wendy Darling the title part she deserves, even though the boy who never grows up received single top billing in Disney’s 1953 adaption and J.M. Barrie’s 1911 novel version of the story was titled Peter And Wendy.
Peter Pan and Wendy is less of a reimagining than it is an admission that this was always Wendy’s story first: that of a girl on the cusp of becoming an adult, who gets to experience a truly fantastic adventure for one night when Peter Pan appears at her window and takes her and her brothers to Neverland.
Since Spike Jonze’s Wondered Where the Wild Things Are, this may be the most hip director-to-kids’-movie pairing since Lowery was previously responsible for Disney’s emotional Pete’s Dragon remake but is more commonly linked to existential quests like The Green Knight & Ghost Story. The director enjoys the story’s thematic substance, as evidenced by his interest not only in Wendy’s upcoming coming-of-age but also in the eerie undercurrents of children who don’t get to grow up and grownups whose inner children have died.
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The filmmaking process of Peter Pan and Wendy was equally as deliberate. The children’s flight to Neverland is captured vividly, with the kids half soaring, half diving towards Big Ben, As Lowery’s camera moves up through the bustle of the Darling household in a tracking shot, it suddenly plunges into an infinite void, adding a thrillingly experimental flourish to the film. There is obvious thought put into the interpretation of iconic pictures while recreating them, such as Peter chasing his shadow around the children’s bedroom or Hook taking on a monster (now kaiju-sized) croc. Bojan Bazelli’s earthy cinematography effectively captures Neverland’s vast spaces and overgrown-playground scenery, even though they lack the heightened hues of the 1953 version.
Peter Pan and Wendy, ironically, lack a sense of young exuberance. Lowery seems more at ease with the story’s sadder undertones, but he struggles more with the lighter moments. Once the kids arrive in Neverland, the film softens into a baggy, draggy middle act rather than kicking into adventure mode.
The fact that Jude Law’s Captain Hook seems so miscast doesn’t help matters. Despite a thrilling entrance (he shoots his way into the movie), he isn’t nearly as entertaining as the strutting villain from the 1953 version or Dustin Hoffman’s pantomime performance in Hook. Law’s portrayal, like his floppy hairpiece, is strangely lifeless. He has trouble living up to the promise of phrases like “I’ve found you guilty of being a child!”
Unfortunately, newcomer Alexander Molony also falls short of filling Peter’s sharp, green shoes. As challenging as it is to portray Peter’s boundless enthusiasm, Molony’s performance falls short because it lacks the seamless snappiness, the boyish obnoxiousness supposed to define Peter’s impulsive attitude. When you factor in Jude Law’s inwardly focused performance, the whole thing feels underwhelming; watching a new chapter in the pair’s unending conflict isn’t quite as exciting as it should be and probably won’t keep kids’ interest.
However, Ever Anderson’s Wendy is much more confident, both as the story’s emotional center and as the film’s swashbuckling action hero in the film’s final act. She brilliantly depicts the twilight zone between childhood and adulthood, when one isn’t quite ready to put down the wooden sword but can feel a new door opening. The film’s emotional landing is spot-on thanks to two stunning flip-book montages that bookend the narrative. It’s a symbol of modernization that, for all its clever ideas, seems eager to mature a little too fast.
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