I’d like to talk about a film that I’ve found has a surprisingly large number of devotees: Hook. We’re all familiar with Spielberg’s 1991 take of the story of Peter Pan; only here, Pan is an adult in the real world, has a family, and is kind of a dunce. He’s forgotten about Neverland and his past; however, when his children are taken by his old nemesis, Captain Hook, he must return to Neverland and confront the life he left behind. This is a great idea for a Peter Pan story, you will agree, and yet the execution is flawed. Both Neverland and the Lost Boys are poorly realized and the principle characters are mishandled and miscast.
Neverland was always supposed to be paradise; why else would people flee there to escape from life’s pressures? You wouldn’t want to live out the rest of your days in misery. Now in my mind, if Neverland were paradise, it would be one large, tropical forest. Lush vegetation, blue skies, a moderate climate would be part of the mix. The Neverland in the film is wrong, though; there are too many different climate zones. You’ve got a mix of desert and tundra and tropical; it’s either too hot or too cold. And the color palette is wrong as well. This place should be full of greens, blues, yellows, and the most vibrant kinds of these colors. Instead we get oranges, browns, and grays… and they’re all washed out, muddy, bland. There’s too much flourish and not enough real substance in this Neverland. There are way too many costumes and props, and it’s all overdone and eventually becomes an assault on the eyes. This Neverland is a bleak and dreary place. If I were any of the Lost Boys, I’d be furious with Peter Pan. That’s another problem: the Lost Boys.
They’re all way too hip, too quick with wisecracks, and they seem to have been taken out of a 90’s music video. The Lost Boys are supposed to be young boys, with little to no educations. And since they’ve been living out on their own without adult supervision, they’re probably borderline savages. Their clothes should be more tattered, their behavior should be less Saved by the Bell and more Lord of the Flies, and they shouldn’t be as happy as they are when Pan returns. Think about it: Pan took all these boys from their homes when they were at a pretty young and impressionable age. This could be considered kidnapping. He promised paradise and fun forever. And where does he take them? To a place that looks like Al Gore’s worst nightmare. And then he abruptly leaves them for about 30 years to go live a life back in the regular world. I’m pretty sure that means he abandoned the kids he was responsible for so he could live the kind of life he convinced them to give up. So why aren’t the Lost Boys angrier, bitter, spiteful? Why are they so happy to see this guy again? And why is this guy played by Robin Williams? That’s another flaw with the film: the casting.
Peter Pan is a leader, the alpha male. There should be a ferocity and cunning about him. His manner should suggest wisdom beyond his years; which makes sense, since his actual age is unknown. He could very well be older than Wendy Darling. Now whom do they get to play Pan? Robin Williams. The guy from Mork and Mindy. Now, I like Williams as much as the next person (One Hour Photo and Good Morning, Vietnam are brilliant); however, Williams doesn’t have that alpha male quality necessary to convince us that he was ever much of a leader or warrior. He can handle drama well enough, but he always seems out of place in the film, as if he’s never at ease in the setting. Ewan McGregor might be more effective; he’s always had a boyish charm coupled with certain intensity. Even worse off is Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook. Hoffman is a wonderful actor; however, he doesn’t do sinister that well. Hook is a character that requires an inherent threatening quality; he talks once and you know he doesn’t mean well. He should also be pretty deranged; why else would he come back after 30 years and take Pan’s kids? Hoffman doesn’t have that menacing quality to him; he’s too nice. He tries too hard as Hook, is way too flamboyant, and misunderstands the character’s nature. Someone like Daniel Day-Lewis or Hugh Laurie would suggest the perfect level of animosity without going over the top. Finally, there’s Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell, which is probably the worst casting in the film. Roberts is best in comedies and light dramas (like Erin Brokovich). She doesn’t have the joviality or bouncy charm you need to play a fairy; she’s too down to earth. You want someone like Amy Adams, who effortlessly conveys ebullience and cheer. Also, Tinker Bell is rather wasted in the film, only showing up every once in a while to mildly scold the Lost Boys or confess her love for Pan… the latter was pretty odd. I’d prefer to think of Tink and Pan as steadfast friends; yes, she once swallowed poison for him, but what good buddy wouldn’t? The love aspect of the relationship seemed forced and inauthentic. Well, the whole film seemed that way, really.
Had a bit more creativity and restraint been practiced when producing a look and feel for Neverland, the film might not have seemed as tedious to watch. Had the actors fit comfortably into their roles rather than tried to grasp their parts, the characters would’ve seemed more believable. Had the film given any sort of thought to anything beyond the initial concept, it might’ve been a success. As it is, it qualifies as an off day for all involved.