Peter Pan
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir PJ Hogan
scr PJ Hogan, Michael Goldenberg
with Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jeremy Sumpter, Jason Isaacs, Olivia Williams, Ludivine Sagnier, Lynn Redgrave, Richard Briers, Geoffrey Palmer, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell, Harry Eden, Carsen Gray
release US 25.Dec.03; UK 26.Dec.03
03/Australia 1h53

Join the struggle against adulthood: Hurd-Wood and Sumpter

isaacs sumpter
williams sagnier redgrave
briers eden
Peter Pan Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Produced with imagination and creativity, PJ Hogan's film of the classic JM Barrie tale is perhaps the most engaging and meaningful version we've seen yet. It not only vividly captures the wonder and fantasy, but it also mines the story for thematic riches. Wendy Darling (Hurd-Wood) is a precocious preteen in Victorian London who entertains her little brothers (Newell and Popplewell) with fantastic tales of distant lands. She's under pressure from her parents (Isaacs and Williams) and a mad aunt (Redgrave) to grow up and stop being so childish, but she resists until her fantasy world invades her life in the form of the flying boy Peter Pan (Sumpter) and his grumpy fairy companion Tink (Sagnier). Soon Wendy and her brothers are flying to Neverland, where they happily fall in with the rambunctious Lost Boys, who like Peter refuse to grow up. But Peter's nemesis Captain Hook (Isaacs again) and his quite literally scurvy mates are out to get them.

Aimed squarely at the child within, the film reaches inside us, grabs hold and never lets go (Spielberg tried--and failed--to do this with Hook). Along the way, the clever script combines humour that's both sophisticated and silly with drama and adventure that's surprisingly strong and emotional. The production design is remarkable as well, hilariously capturing the extremes of Victoriana and the outlandish otherworldliness of Neverland without trying to be realistic or gritty. Those things are left to the characters, and the actors all manage shade the colourful excesses with raw authenticity. Isaacs is terrific in both roles--pinched and nervous in "real" life and brutally camp as Hook. Williams is absolutely lovely in a textured and often silent performance, while Redgrave is an absolute hoot as the overdramatic auntie. She and the sardonic Briers (as Hook's, erm, right-hand man Smee) get all the biggest laughs. Meanwhile, the children strike exactly the right notes, and Sagnier delivers a terrific silent movie-type turn as the tetchy Tink.

It's also wonderful to see that in a film full of spectacular effects and ingenious touches (a fabulous dog-nanny, creepy mermaids, a dazzling fairy dance), the filmmakers didn't scrimp on the story or themes. Hogan takes a gentle but well-aimed swipe at the British stiff upper lip, as well as misguided Western notions of independence, progress and maturity. He astonishes us visually, reminding us that this is a storybook fantasy while still sweeping us right into it. He touches on more universal ideas of responsibility, jealousy and revenge without pulling any punches, then constantly undercuts sentimentality, letting us feel the emotion without wallowing in it. And he also packs in several layers of meaning that will touch children of all ages. Whether they want to grow up or not.

cert PG themes, violence, suspense 12.Dec.03

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... peter pan Kylie, California: 5 out of 5 stars "An absolutely amazing and enchanting film, with great sword-fighting scenes, a terrific fairy scene and beautiful costumes (especially the mother's dress). The movie sticks to the original story and includes all of the modern touches and special effects that make this movie up to modern standards. Complete with beauty, fun, chills and imagination, this film will serve as a delight to children, as well as teens and adults." (24.Dec.03)

peter pan KC, New Jersey: 5 out of 5 stars "This is a refreshing child's movie with a magical twist. You could feel everyone's emotions; you felt like you where in Never Land. The actors & actresses where great too. I loved the movie so much I saw it twice! I strongly advise to go see Peter Pan or you'll be missing out on a lot." (29.Dec.03)

Timber Wolf Beauty, net: 5 out of 5 stars "I love this movie! I thought it would be stupid because of all the Peter Pan movies made, but it was great! Jeremy (Peter) was really hot!" (29.Dec.03)

Laura, California: 5 out of 5 stars "I thought this movie was just gonna be another kids movie, BUT i was sooooo wrong. it was so cool, and Jeremy Sumpter who plays Peter Pan was really hot!" (6.Jan.05)

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall