Follow the adventures of a boy who does not want to grow up, and how he recruits three brothers in London, and together they embark on a magical adventure on the enchanted island of Neverland.
One of the year’s best films, David Lowery’s “Peter Pan and Wendy” provides a more adult, melancholy take on J.M. Barrie’s seminal tale, a brilliant reinvention that looks at the deceptive allure of childhood, the resistance to maturity and the cost of responsibility with an unflinching eye. Sporting sumptuous production values and a strong cast, this is by far the best film version of the story, one that, like the best Pixar movies, will dazzle children and resonate with adults.
The plot is much the same as previous adaptations, starting at the home of the Darlings where John and Michael (Joshua Pickering and Jacobi Jupe) are lost in their imaginary world of sword fights and grand adventure, while their sister Wendy (Ever Anderson) is contending with her awkward pre-teen years. And of course, the boy that won’t grow up (Alexander Molony), makes his appearance, intent on bringing the siblings to Never Neverland. The trip takes place, the Lost Boys are discovered, John and Michael are taken by Captain Hook (a menacing and heartbreaking Jude Law) and all manner of adventures ensue.
Again, the outline of the story remains the same, however it’s the subtext in the screenplay by Toby Halbrooks and Lowery that makes it much more than a simple children’s story. Much as they did with their remake of “Pete’s Dragon,” issues of imagination, reality and denial are the true focus. Hook’s backstory is expanded upon, giving the character far more depth while providing us with a logical motivation for his actions. The relationship he has with Pan is far from arbitrary or simply a yin-yang arrangement. Rather, it is rooted in a past that is rife with betrayal and pain, an emotional bond between them that was ripped asunder. Questions of destiny, identity and free-will abound as do clever pieces of symbolism that add heretofore unexplored layers to the story. The meaning of Hook’s metal appendage takes on a more melancholy air than before while the notion of clocks and time as well as absent parents come to the forefront in powerful and touching ways.
All that being said, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a dire affair. That the film is not being shown in theaters is a travesty as the widest canvas possible is the only way to appreciate the work of Jade Healy and her crew as well as the digital effects team. The amount of detail afforded to the costumes, Hook’s ship and all its accoutrements as well as the Darling’s home beg to be accorded more time in which to drink them in. Equally impressive is the soaring, touching score by Daniel Hart which compliments the visuals in a way that is never overbearing.
Often, we wonder why the same old stories are remade again and again. Disney is guilty of that more than any other studio, yet the work here by Lowery and Halbrooks for once justifies this revisitation. By providing meaningful motivations to the characters and providing depth to the story’s themes, they have created a film this is familiar yet far more impactful a work that transcends its narrative boundaries to become something universally evocative And while “Peter Pan & Wendy” does make for perfect family viewing, don’t be surprised to find yourself more emotionally engaged than the children you watch it with. This film cuts to the core, poignantly reminding us of the wonders of childhood and all that is sacrificed when the inescapable responsibilities of adulthood are thrust upon us. Sometimes, remembering all that has been left behind, proves too much to bear.