Peter Pan and Wendy (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – Live-action adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of a boy who wouldn’t grow up and recruits three young siblings in London to join him on a magical adventure to the enchanted Neverland island.

My Take – Though Peter Pan has been the subject of many iterations over the years, most famously the Robin Williams starrer Hook (1991), the widely appreciated Peter Pan (2003), and the massive box-office bomb Pan (2015), Disney‘s 1953 animated adventure continues to remain the most recognized and appreciated version of the playwright J. M. Barrie‘s character.

Hence, like most of us, I was not too happy when Disney announced a live action adaption. Especially considering how the Mouse House, with the exception of The Jungle Book (2016), has been handing out soulless, all CGI heavy carbon copies that seem to exist only to act as cash cows for the studio, that seems determined to mine every ounce of nostalgic value of their time-tested assets.

While their seemed to be a glimmer of hope considering how it sees writer/director David Lowery (A Ghost Story, The Green Knight) at the helm, who gained particular acclaim for his reworking of Pete’s Dragon (2016), and is certainly a gorgeous film to look at thanks to its lush sets and gorgeous locations, but as such has become the norm, this Disney+ release is unquestionably yet another soulless mediocre entry into Disney‘s canon of forgettable live-action films that fails in every way that made the 1953 version a classic.

Yes, the film contains a few welcome and necessary changes, done to rid the film of the animated flick’s problematic elements, changed the lead status quo for Wendy, and added more backstory to Captain Hook, however, it struggles to merit its own existence. Lacking the magic of the original story, the film is just unable to shake the bland and safe approach taken here, minus the whimsy or humor we come to expect from a trip to Neverland.

Sure, one can see glimmers of what director Lowery could have done if he had not abide by the Disney formula. Yet, the resulting experience is in yet another exercise in mediocrity that could have been so much better.

Set in Victorian England, the story follows Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson), a headstrong young girl who is frustrated as she is being forced to grow-up. Set to leave for boarding school in the morning, Wendy attempts to enjoy her last night in the nursery alongside her brothers Michael (Jacobi Jupe) and John (Joshua Pickering).

However, once they are in bed, Wendy is visited by the legendary Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) and his fairy sidekick, Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi), two characters from her favorite childhood story, who convince her to come to Neverland with them, so she never has to grow up.

With her brothers by her side, Wendy takes off with Peter and Tinker Bell to fly to Neverland. There she meets Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatahk), battles pirates with the Lost Boys, and comes face to face with the sad and sinister man, Captain Hook (Jude Law). A journey that changes her life forever.

The first half of the screenplay, written by Lowery and Toby Halbrooks (Pete’s Dragon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), is a surprisingly traditional retelling of the original story. And they are most successful in making Neverland look like a place you’d want to visit. But then you get there and realize the attractive fantasy is just that. Once we arrive in Neverland, some elements are enchanting, but simultaneously, the environment feels limited in scope.

The Darling children and Peter encounter Captain Hook almost immediately. There is very little time to explore the wonders of Neverland. However, the biggest problem in the need to stick to the original and trying to do something new. Here, director Lowery and co-writer Toby Halbrooks decide to change things up a little by coming up with a deeper reason for Hook and Pan’s rivalry. And it’s supposed to be this massive twist, which then concludes the rivalry on a rather positive note, but doesn’t feel impactful in any way.

Making matters worse is that the main characters are completely unlikable. Peter Pan often comes across as a bland, emotionless and unlikable boy who refuses to grow up. Wendy, on the other hand, is a modern girl in a world where young women who were vocal and unafraid to speak their minds were frowned upon. Unlike previous portrayals of her, this is more updated feel to Wendy seems out of place as the film is set in the early 1900s.

The additional focus on Hook’s backstory is handled well, but cut short to focus on Wendy. Likewise, there is little done with Tinkerbell or Tiger Lily as characters, nor is there a standout Lost Boy that audiences can rally around. The lack of character development coupled with a disjoined story line made the film feel plodding and tiresome. The VFX and CGI are incredibly inconsistent, which has become typical for Disney productions nowadays.

The performances are also a bit of a mixed bag. Jude Law essentially carries the entire film on his shoulders, delivering the necessary emotional hits. Alexander Molony doesn’t get to showcase much outside a couple of fight scenes with Hook and has no chemistry with either Wendy or any of the lost boys. Considering the classic status of the character, Molony never manages to pierce the screen and therefore reach the heart of the viewer.

Ever Anderson, daughter of Milla Jovovich and filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson (Event Horizon, Resident Evil) is certainly a much spunkier Wendy than we’ve traditionally seen, but she’s saddled with a lot of scolding of Peter and stressing out about Neverland not being the idyllic world she’d been promised.

Yara Shahidi taking over as Tinkerbell, had so much potential, but is wasted. While in other roles, Jim Gaffigan, Alyssa Wapanatahk, Jacobi Jupe, Joshua Pickering, Molly Parker and Alan Tudyk are decent. On the whole, ‘Peter Pan & Wendy’ is yet another soulless Disney remake that struggles to merit its own existence.

Directed –

Starring – Jude Law, Ever Anderson, Alexander Molony

Rated – PG

Run Time – 106 minutes

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