Peter Pan (2003) (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/12/2003

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Perfectly cast and gorgeous to look at, this is an enjoyable family film, marred only by an occasionally choppy second half.

If the thought of returning to Neverland brings back shivers of horror as you recall Spielberg’s abysmal Hook, then fear not – there is no Robin Williams-style gurning or tear-jerking here. Director PJ Hogan (best known for Muriel’s Wedding), together with some world class production design work, has created an impressive fairy-tale world, with the accompanying publicity proudly trumpeting that this is the “first live action feature film version of Peter Pan since the silent era” and, as such, represents Barrie’s “original vision”.

Tales Of Pirates And Distant Lands

The film is set in Victorian London (also lovingly designed) and stars Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy Darling, a slightly precocious middle-class child who loves to enthrall her little brothers (Freddie Popplewell and Harry Newell) with tales of pirates and distant lands. She’s under pressure to grow up from both her parents (Olivia Williams and Jason Isaacs) and her strait-laced aunt (Lynne Redgrave). One night, however, she finds her fantasy life literally invading her real life, as Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) flies in through her bedroom window, accompanied by his jealous fairy companion, Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier, from Swimming Pool).

Peter swiftly whisks Wendy and her brothers off to Neverland (“second star on the right and straight on till morning”), where they encounter the Lost Boys, who, like Peter, refuse to grow up. They also come up against Peter’s sworn enemy, the fearsome Captain Hook (Isaacs again) and his motley crew, including Richard Briers as Smee and a Comedy Parrot…

The young leads are extremely good, as is Jason Isaacs, who pretty much steals the film and is convincing both as timid bank clerk and as suitably hiss-worthy pantomime villain.

Also rather wonderful is Ludivine Sagnier as Tinkerbell – she has no dialogue, instead delivering a comic performance that wouldn’t be out of place in a silent movie, combining exaggerated facial expressions and hyper-active speed, courtesy of some brilliant effects-work and lighting. There’s good support, too, especially from Richard Briers, who occasionally offers to-camera asides and gets most of the laughs.

Truly Gorgeous To Look At

The film is truly gorgeous to look, creating a fittingly fairy-tale like atmosphere. There are some memorable effects, too, such as the dance of the fairies and the deeply creepy mermaids (who appear all too briefly).

The main problem with the film, then, is that it loses its momentum in the second half. The story becomes choppy and a couple of important sequences (Wendy walking the plank; the battles) are poorly directed – they should be providing moments for the audience to cheer; instead they’re confusing and over too quickly.

That said, it’s still an enjoyable, old-fashioned family film with great characters and a good story to tell. More importantly, adults won’t feel hard done by if dragged to see it by their kids. Worth seeing, even if the ‘Produced by Mohammed Al-Fayed’ credit and the dedication to Dodi Al-Fayed do seem a little incongruous.

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Peter Pan (2003) (PG)
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Content updated: 19/10/2017 23:11

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