Directed by Steven Spielberg
Based on J.M. Barrie’s 1911 novel Peter and Wendy
Screenplay by James V. Hart, Nick Castle, Malia Scotch Marmo
Starring: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Caroline Goodall, Charlie Korsmo
Peter Banning is a powerful attorney who has placed his family second to his business. While in London with his wife (Goodall) and children (Korsmo, Amber Scott), Peter is faced with memories of his past as an orphan saved by Granny Wendy (Smith). When his children are mysteriously taken in the night, a note from Captain Hook (Hoffman) calls Peter back to Neverland. Now the grown Peter must recover the memories of his adventures in Neverland as he tries to save his children.
This film is based on the classic stories of Peter and Wendy as written by J.M. Barrie. The story and screenplay for the movie were developed by James V. Hart (August Rush), Nick Castle (The Boy Who could Fly), and Malia Scotch Marmo (Madeline). Director Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) took on this whimsical re-imagined version of the Peter Pan story. The cast features a nice list of well-known actors beginning with Dustin Hoffman (Midnight Cowboy), Robin Williams (Mrs. Doubtfire), Julia Roberts (Notting Hill), and Bob Hoskins (Hollywoodland). In addition, the film features Maggie Smith (Harry Potter), Caroline Goodall (Schindler’s List), and Charlie Korsmo (What About Bob?).
This story is an interesting expansion on the original stories of Peter Pan as written by J.M. Barrie. The grown Peter is written as the antithesis of his youthful past. Hook is also an interesting character in this one, more complex in his motives than the stories ever made him. Overall, the writers did a good job bringing the classic story to life. Unfortunately, using the classic story so closely took away some opportunity for originality. The final product is whimsical and fun, but doesn’t do much in expanding the well-known stories of Peter Pan.
The acting in this one works wonderfully. No one could have done a better job bringing Peter to life than Robin Williams. His performance works in bringing out the gradual changes in the character, from ruthless businessman to adventurous Peter. His counterpart in this film is Dustin Hoffman, who is wonderful as Captain Hook. Hoffman took the complexities of the role and gave them a flair that allows Hook to be an entertaining villain. Another fun performance comes from the talented Bob Hoskins. His role provides comic relief that helps to keep the film lighter at times. Maggie Smith, Caroline Goodall, and Charlie Korsmo all do nice work in their parts of this film. The rest of the cast is also good, allowing the world of Neverland to come to life.
The production work on this one is really good. The world of Neverland has a personality of its own, that fits in with the writing in the film. The lives of the characters are all accentuated by the sets that fit them. The camera work and other technical aspects all come together nicely in this one. The film earned Academy Award nominations for Best Costumes, Best Set Decoration, Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects. Additionally, the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Score for the music by John Williams (Lincoln).
The lack of new material in the story for this film left the reception a bit flat with the critics. The movie was mildly successful at the box office, and ultimately was considered a failure by the studio. Steven Spielberg has also expressed regrets over the technical limitations at the time that prevented his vision from coming to life the way he hoped for. Despite those limitations, the movie is a fun film that works for the whole family. Despite the weaknesses in the story, the movie features some great acting. If you’re a fan of the stars, this is one worth checking out. I would also suggest this to families who are looking for a good movie night selection. I give this one 3.3 out of 5 stars.