Peter Pan (2003)


   

Our rating: 4 out of 5

Rated: PG

 
reviewed by Carissa Horton

        

All children grow up...Except one

Youth. A lovely intangible we try so often to hold onto but eventually lose entirely. Not so with Peter Pan. He is eternally young, buoyant, filled to overflowing with joy, happiness and an extremely contagious laugh. There has never been a more uplifting or melancholy children's tale then Peter Pan, and this is an excellent adaptation. Wendy Darlings truest joy is telling tales to her younger brothers, Michael and John. Stories of daring feats and adventures, especially concerning Captain Hook and his crew of bloodthirsty pirates. What she doesn't know is that another person hears these personal imaginings as well. A lurking figure is outside the Darling children's bedroom window nearly every night; listening attentively for the exciting stories that pour from Wendy's active mind.

On one such night, Peter actually ventures into the nursery, his curiosity overcoming his caution. Leaning over Wendy's bed, he makes a soft sound, wrenching her from a sound sleep and sending him bounding for the ceiling. Wendy bolts from her bed in a panic, ready to defend herself against all enemies. Still disoriented, Wendy misses the figure darting toward the window and Nanna (their dog nurse) lunging forward to grab hold of a youthful shadow; wrenching back fiercely and disengaging it from its owner. The noises have disoriented Wendy and, in her confusion she overlooks the shadow being locked in a cupboard drawer by Nanna. All is now silent, with Wendy striving to comprehend what might occurred. No, nothing outside the window, nothing at all out of the ordinary in their room. Clearing her head, Wendy quietly climbs back into bed, convincing herself she imagined the encounter with a mysterious form which weightlessly floated above her head.

  

The next night Peter makes his way back to the Darling home in search of his shadow. This time Peter is actually discovered by Wendy due to his tears of despair over not being able to reattach his likeness. Peter, having rarely ever been close to a girl, is quite enthralled with Wendy, and his fondness seems to grow even further after she sews his shadow on. With the boys in tow, Wendy and Peter soar into the heavens just as the Darling parents rush into the room to discover their beloved children missing. Wendy's doubts swiftly fade away in the beauty of the universe and the sweet mischievousness of Peters smile. Neverland is all a person could have hoped for; overflowing with mermaids, Indians, pirates, and flowering blossoms that would be more at home in a garden then an island. After her first run-in and near-death-experience with the Lost Boys (caused mostly by Peters fairy friend, or shall I say fiend, Tinkerbell), Wendy makes herself quite at home only to remember that her brothers went missing after an air attack by Captain Hook and his crew of miscreants. The only ones who may have the slightest clue as to Michael and Johns whereabouts are the mermaids, cruel creatures who would just as soon drown you as look at you. If Peter had not been by her side, Wendy may indeed have found herself at the bottom of the sea, but he has far more power then you would think and the mermaids can do them no harm.
 
Captain Hook has captured her brothers and left them to die chained to a rock in a hideous cove called Black Castle. Its a fearful place filled with the skeletons of ones who have been destroyed previously. If Wendy had been a lesser girl she may have been frightened when she and Peter fly to the rescue of her brothers and an Indian maid known as Tiger Lily. A fierce battle erupts between Hook and Pan after Peter has deceived two of the pirates into releasing the captives. Peter is swift but might very well have lost the battle if it were not for the Croc arriving at an opportune moment, hungry for Captain Hooks other hand. The heroes escape, and a delightful celebration takes place for Tiger Lily is also the Indian Chiefs daughter and obviously much valued. Peter and Wendy have grown even closer, one reason being the Lost boys call them mother and father. Peter carefully steals her away where she witnesses a surreal fairy ball filled with light and laughter. Peter only knows he wants Wendy with him always; he cannot explain his feelings, but he would rather die then lose her. Yet, that is a difficult decision to make for Wendy wants to grow up and you could not love a boy who would stay forever young. As to whether this tale was worth the telling, you'll have to discover for yourself.

 

There were a few, shall I say, difficulties. At one point Michael and John are hanging upside down by their ankles with their nightshirts dangling around their necks. Unfortunately they did not have anything on beneath their sleeping garments and you wind up with a brief view of bare buttocks. At another point Nanna gives Michael a ride to the bath tub and he is in naught but his skin, though details are carefully blurred. The largest complaint parents may have is the emotional tension between Peter and Wendy. Their hormones are just beginning to kick into high gear and you often see them gazing at each other or holding each others hand; if they were older you would believe them to be in love. There are two kisses. One Wendy bestows upon Peter when he has given up all hope and the other Tiger Lily springs on John after he helps save her life. Personally I found Peters reaction to Wendy's kiss amusing and adorable but I can see how others might not think a kiss between such young teens to be proper.

 

Of course there is also violence, including one scene of a man being swallowed whole by a monstrous crocodile. Captain Hook does not have his special arm attached when you first see him; it's rather upsetting for little children to see a man who is missing half a limb. There's a bit of swashbuckling action; Peter is cut a few times, and people are threatened with all manner of weapons. There's even a point when Peter holds a sword to Wendy's throat. Some scenes are rather dark and perilous and may be too much for young children. A few fairies do die during this film, which makes your heart sink a little. However, in spite of these slight difficulties, Peter Pan is a film I will treasure for always. The scenery is breathtaking and the special effects are incredible, with believable mermaids, fairies, and flying children. Peters smile and laugh are extremely contagious, and it is obvious the actor truly, deeply loved his role. All the actors morphed into their roles extremely well and for most of the child actors this was their first film. One thing I noticed and appreciated was the subtle reminder that being forever young is not all one would expect. When Peter leaves for the final time there is an overwhelming sense of sadness in his gaze. It is obvious he wishes he could be a regular little boy, but he cant.

 

Keep your mind and heart open to the emotions behind Peter Pan, and I think you'll be surprised with how much it really has to offer. Get ready for a wonderful fantasy which contains a dreamlike quality, an excellent ending which leaves you with a thrilling bittersweet sensation, and the joy only the Boy Who Never Grows Up can bring.

 


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