Since the movie industry is full of adults who act like children, it makes sense that it's preoccupied with the story of the boy who never grew up. And audiences feel the same way. Animated and live-action movie history are rife with adaptations of the J.M. Barrie story. In fact, it seems we should be due another one any moment now. From the musicals we grew up with to the inevitable Johnny Depp vehicle, here are our rankings of the most famous versions.
6. The Direct-to-DVD Disney Fairies Tinker Bell Series
No longer the hair-pulling, murderously jealous fairy that we all know and love, Tink was made nice for these generic kiddie movies. What's wrong with a little darkness, Disney? No one wants your friendship-obsessed, lobotomized fairy.
5. Return to Neverland
Disney released this animated sequel set during the London blitz and featuring the adventures of Wendy's daughter Jane and Peter in 2002. It had a theatrical release that we barely remember, but did okay on DVD. It's almost entirely forgettable except for its theme song, a ridiculous cover of "Do You Believe in Magic?" by British boy band BBMak.
4. Finding Neverland
Marc Forster directed Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet as Barrie and his friend and muse Sylvia Davies in this 2004 film. It's a must-watch for any Pan fan with the fair warning that you will cry all of the tears in your body.
3. Walt Disney's Peter Pan
Walt Disney, that crafty guy, made a deal with the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to option the rights that Barrie bequeathed upon his death. The result was this 1953 film, which largely dominates the public consciousness when it comes to this story. Though the conglomerate would probably prefer that we forget that whole "What Made the Red Man Red?" part, for obvious reasons.
2. Peter Pan (2003)
This live-action version was the first to feature a young boy in the title role, as, for years, the stage tradition was for Peter to be played by a woman. (Mary Martin, most famously.) The film did observe the practice of double-casting one actor as Captain Hook and George Darling; here, Jason Isaacs. Isaacs is an elegant Hook; and the previously unknown Jeremy Sumpter and Rachel Hurd-Wood have innocent but absorbing chemistry as Peter and Wendy.
Despite its walloping by critics, the 1991 Spielberg adaptation defined a generation of movie lovers who still throw out an occasional "Ruf-i-oooo!" when they get drunk. You have to respect pure committment to a dubious idea, and Hook has confidence in droves.
There are certain movies that we watched as children that, as adults, don’t resonate as powerfully upon revisit. But then there are some movies that entrance us when we are young and work on remarkably different levels once we reach adulthood.
At the risk of exposing my youth, and striking another blow to my own credibility, for me, Hook was just such a film. As a kid, I loved the physical comedy, the swashbuckling, and the unmitigated cool of Rufio. But the movie took on an entirely new life for me when I revisited it recently, thanks to Netflix’s Watch Instantly. We highly urge you to revisit it yourself.
Who Made It: Hook is yet another in the cavalcade of classics from the incredible Steven Spielberg. Hook was Spielberg’s first film of the ‘90s, leading off a slew of some of his best work: Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan. The ‘90s were definitely good for Steven.
Who’s In It: The cast of Hook features a pirate shipload of talent. The film stars Robin Williams in the lead role of Peter Banning, supported by the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins and Maggie Smith. Spielberg has demonstrated a knack for assembling unique ensemble casts. Hell, even singer Phil Collins shows up at one point.
What’s It About: Peter Banning is a man sadly more devoted to his career than his family. He is constantly breaking promises and failing to meet commitments that don’t involve contracts and hostile takeovers. While visiting Granny Wendy, the woman who ran the orphanage where he grew up, Peter’s children are abducted. A note left in their empty room indicates that a Captain James Hook took the children, and that Peter must come to a place called Neverland to retrieve them. Suddenly, a long-forgotten era of his past begins to resurface.
Why You Should Watch It:
Hook is a fascinating continuation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. For many of us, the only facets of the story we know come from the Disney animated version. We know that Wendy Darling, and her brothers, are transported to Neverland by Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. We know about the sinister Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, and the crocodile. What Spielberg’s film does is give us an extension of the story, a sort of “where are they now” for the beloved characters. It blurs the lines between fantasy and reality by featuring a grownup Pan who not only no longer believes in Neverland, but has in fact become amnesic of his childhood and the adventures there contained.
We get to see what has become of Neverland in Pan’s absence. We see a very bored, unfulfilled Captain Hook, played with powerful emotional complexity by the amazing Dustin Hoffman; one of his best roles in my opinion. Hook has become obsessed with the idea of another great battle with Pan and seeks his return despite how much he hates him. In this way, the character is acknowledging how their conflict defines him. For his part, Pan must reconnect with his roots in order to save the most treasured part of his new life; identity crises kind of rum rampant in Hook. We also get to see what became of Hook’s feud with the crocodile and how the hierarchy of Lost Boys has changed. It’s a distinctly unromantic examination of Neverland, which allows us to connect more directly to the weight and contours of the world of the film.
That’s not at all to say that Hook is devoid of magic, it would be damn near impossible for Steven Spielberg to make a film about Neverland without it being loaded with spectacle. The production design of the film is absolutely breathtaking; allowing for the audience to become acquainted with the full of gamut of both the familiar and wholly original nuances surrounding Neverland. The design of the Lost Boys’ tree houses, the massive and foreboding skeletal prow of Hook’s ship, right down to the rainbow-colored fluff of the Lost Boy feast give a new visual fingerprint to an age-old tale. The cinematography as Pan first learns to fly, sweeping and unbridled, is a perfect tribute to what made us fall in love with this story as children.
Whether we like it or not, we are not Pan and therefore must grow up. But fortunately our appreciation for films like Hook mature right alongside us.
P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan follows J.M. Barrie's story almost to the letter. A girl on the brink of womanhood Wendy Darling (newcomer Rachel Hurd-Wood) loves telling her brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) stories of dastardly pirates as they sit in their nursery under the watchful eye of their St. Bernard Nana. Her 19th-century Londoner parents however believe the time has come for the young girl to grow up especially her father. Then a cheeky wild-haired boy named Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter) flies through the nursery window one night with his trusted yet jealousy-prone fairy Tinkerbell (Ludivine Sagnier) telling Wendy he can take her to a place full of adventure where no one ever has to grow up. She readily accepts the offer and with a few happy thoughts some fairy dust and her two brothers in tow she flies off to Neverland. (Not the ranch…the real place.) Once there Wendy encounters mermaids Indians and the Lost Boys (who refer to her as "mother") and gets the whole pirate experience in Peter's ongoing feud with arch-nemesis Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs). But Wendy soon becomes conflicted because on the one hand she likes hangin' with hottie Peter but on the other she misses her mother. She decides it's probably best to go back and grow up but in her hurry to leave she ends up in Hook's clutches. A rescue ensues. Swords clash ticking crocodiles are fed and fairies are saved as our clever fly boy zooms Wendy and company back to London on a giant pirate ship. But does he stay and grow up himself? Hell no he's a Toys 'R Us kid forever!
All the kid actors in Peter Pan are highly watchable and appealing with angelic faces peaches-and-cream complexions and pouty cherry lips. This is the first time Peter is being played by a real-life boy a fact much hyped by the filmmakers and 12-year-old Sumpter (Frailty) does his best to live up to the expectations. (He's soon to be swoon-worthy material for sure.) He's got a mischievous gleam in his eye and a great sly smile but he really lights up when he's looking into Wendy's adorable face. Hurd-Wood the first-time actress who plays the spirited girl earned her role after a long and involved casting process it's well deserved; she fits the typical English-girl profile perfectly and gets the hang of her craft quickly infusing the character with a natural cheerful energy. It's also refreshing to see the young actors play up Wendy and Peter's feelings of first love which prior films always hinted at but never fully realized. Isaacs in a dual role as the firm-but-loving Mr. Darling and the frightening comical lonely charming needy reprehensible Captain Hook draws on his experience at playing exquisitely awful baddies (The Patriot Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and really sinks his claws into Hook. In a stand out supporting role French actress Sagnier (Swimming Pool) is really fantastic as the vivacious non-speaking Tinkerbell portraying the fairy's conflicted emotions with a silent-film over-the-top technique.
Director/writer P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) and his team try to distinguish their film from the other Peter Pans of the world by using all the technical and special effects wizardry at their disposal. Hogan says his Peter Pan is the way its author Barrie intended to be when he wrote it as a play over a 100 years ago--full of fantasy and wonder. In a way he's right and production designer Roger Ford and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar take his vision and run with it giving audiences a very lush Neverland with waterfalls fluffy pink clouds crystal-blue waters and a gorgeous fairy world. But despite the bells and whistles there really isn't anything original and different in this Pan. Even its look at the dark side of Neverland has been done in Steven Spielberg's 1991 semi-sequel Hook which showed the dangers of Neverland. In this version lives really are at stake and the pirates are not cute and fun. Even the mermaids are mysterious and malevolent with scary faces and murderous intentions a far cry from the beautiful if somewhat mean-spirited creatures of the 1953 classic Disney animated adaptation another inescapable influence on the audience. When the crocodile draws near for example tick-tocking away the croc's signature tune from the Disney film comes immediately to mind. People may love those Disney films for those cutesy catchy songs but Peter Pan really is a good story. Heck it's a great story. But it's just been done.
The tall and lanky redhead from Australia is the toast of the town these days. Nicole Kidman just won a Golden Globe for her performance in last year's Moulin Rouge and is on just about everyone's A-list; she's probably thinking, "It's about freaking time!"
Joining the long list of projects she has been attached to recently--including Lars von Trier's Dogville and Robert Benton's The Human Stain with Anthony Hopkins--Kidman has made a deal to develop Court and Spark (hey, isn't that a Joni Mitchell album?) with Fox Searchlight.
Court is the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who married the King of France (Louis VII), started an affair with the King of England (Henry II), had her marriage to Louis annulled and eventually married Henry. Eleanor was flamboyant, beautiful and rich and it was her ardent wish to rule France. Unfortunately, her gender got in the way.
I can see Kidman playing Eleanor, but does anyone remember the exquisite Katharine Hepburn playing the colorful queen in 1968's The Lion in Winter, opposite Peter O'Toole as England's King Henry? Well, you should.
Hepburn only won an Academy Award for it, for heaven's sakes. Nicole might do well to watch this film a few hundred times to see how a great actress of our time portrays a great queen of all time.
Rock gets bit by the directing bug
Let's see how fast-talking, establishment-bucking comedian Chris Rock does at directing his first major motion picture. Rock has chosen DreamWorks' political comedy Head of State as his first foray behind the lens--of course, he'll also star in the film. Rock plays a Washington, D.C. city alderman who's thrust into the nation's presidential race as a replacement for a deceased candidate.
Not the greatest sounding premise but it has some potential. Rock needs to watch out for the Eddie Murphy syndrome, though. Murphy once tried his hand at a political comedy too (Distinguished Gentleman) and it failed miserably. Be careful, Chris.
Coming to theaters soon: The Olsen twins!
Lose your mind! Those too-cute-for-words teen stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen hit the silver screen once again, following their first attempt in 1995's It Takes Two. Forget about those measly home videos and television movies and specials. The big screen is where it's at.
The project for Warner Bros. is being kept under close wraps, but the film is said to be a comedy and will certainly set the blossoming teenagers on yet another fun-filled adventure. The girls recently bowed out of their ABC Family series So Little Time so they could pursue other ventures, including their fashion line and feature films.
How did these two manage to build an incredible empire at such a tender age? It really boggles the mind.
Downey's second (and third and fourth) chance
Robert Downey Jr. has enough lives to rival any cat. As screwed-up the guy is in his personal life, he is still the consummate professional and Hollywood is going to keep working with him until he either straightens out for good--or finally kicks it. Not to mention, I'll go see just about anything he does.
He's in negotiations to star in Six Bullets From Now, a film inspired by the real-life events of New Year's Day 1972, when five gunmen stole more than $10 million in cash and jewels from the Pierre's Hotel in New York City in broad daylight. The theft led to a massive FBI manhunt.
Ridley Scott is producing the flick under his Scott Free Productions shingle.
Bridges is a "Giver"
Jeff Bridges will star and produce the feature film The Giver based on the 1994 novel by Lois Lowry--and folks, the plotline is a doozy. I'm just going to have to take it word-for-word from the Hollywood Reporter article:
"Described as being in the vein of 1984 and Brave New World, the book carries the theme of sacrificing humanity for societal stability. It presents a world without pain, pleasure, racial or socioeconomic differences, crime, poverty, sickness, free will or love. In the community, every member has a role, and 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community's Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of a wise old man known as the Giver (Bridges), he gradually discovers the disturbing truth about his world: that its people have chosen to give up their humanity to create a more stable society. They must now struggle against the weight of this hypocrisy."
Wow. That's going to be a bright and cheery film. I can't wait.
Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, Hook, The Lost Boys--all your favorite Peter Pan characters get to come to life when Revolution Studios, along with Walt Disney Co. and Sony's Columbia Pictures, bring the endearing J.M. Barrie story to the big screen in a live-action motion picture.
Of course, the story has been done and done--on television, on film, on stage--but we're always game for another rendition, especially when they are talking to the likes of Jason Isaacs (The Patriot) to play Captain Hook. But we are also a tad skeptical. Remember Steven Spielberg's lame attempt to bring an updated Pan to screen with Hook? Yikes. I can tell you one thing: they are not going to approach Julia Roberts to play Tinkerbell.