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PETER PAN
U.S. Release Date: December 25, 2003
Distributor: Universal
Director: P.J. Hogan
Writer: Michael Goldenberg
Producer: Lucy Fisher, Gail Lyon (executive producer), Douglas Wick
Composer: James Newton Howard
Cast: Jeremy Sumpter
Running Time: 1 hour and 53 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (for adventure action sequences and peril)

Wendy's Wonderful World
by Scott Holleran

Despite its imperfections, Peter Pan is the best childrens' picture in a long time. By keeping true to the source, English writer J.M. Barrie's stories, director P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend's Wedding) has pointedly rejected the incessant ba-dump-dump blather that screams from today's juvenile movies. Hogan's Peter Pan is a marvelous, magical adventure.

Sprinkling its fairy dust generously, Peter Pan dazzles the senses with splendor. Barrie's original story is a mixture of themes, which may explain why Barrie explored Pan in various plays and books. Director and writer Hogan presents a child's imaginary world, and he properly focuses on the world's creator, Wendy (the glowing Rachel Hurd-Wood), and its master, Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter, the first boy to play the title role since the character was created 100 years ago).

Sumpter is the ideal combination of sinewy youth and knowing, boyish confidence. Hogan has captured Peter Pan in someone who is neither too athletic nor too young—and he thankfully allows no hint of modern precociousness. Sumpter sparkles as he takes command of the boy who wouldn't grow up—an un-self-conscious boy who is distinctly American, not British.

After meeting the Darlings—Wendy, John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell) and their parents, played by Jason Isaacs and Olivia Williams, Peter Pan enters Wendy's window as she's becoming a young woman.

Together, Peter and Wendy embark on the journey to Never Never Land. Hogan has skillfully incorporated each mark of the legendary tale, with some license, including Peter Pan's fairy, Tinker Bell (charming Ludivine Sagnier), the Lost Boys, an adorable Tiger Lily and the Indians, Michael's teddy bear, John's top hat, and, of course, Captain Hook, also played by Isaacs. Hook and his grimy pirates are not caricatures; they are purely the domain of Peter Pan—and therefore the means to ends of Wendy's imaginative progression toward growing up.

There are too many conflicting themes, from the false notion that anything rational is devoid of emotion to a blissful expression of young, innocent love, and some of Peter Pan doesn't work, such as Lynn Redgrave's shallow Aunt Milicent and a big dog as the Darling children's nursemaid, which is silly.

P.J. Hogan has brought Barrie's imaginative fairy tale to life with a reverence for a child's discovery of self, which Peter Pan calls the "cleverness of me." Driven by great casting, splendid special effects and attention to the slightest detail—in costume, design and lighting—Hogan, with fellow writer Michael Goldenberg, has brought the storybook to the screen in live action, and he has done so with a desperately needed sense of wonder at the world.


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