Suitably fruity: Jude Law as Captain Hook in ‘Peter Pan & Wendy’.
PETER PAN & WENDY **1/2 (106 minutes) PG
Though it’s not as dreary as some have been, Disney’s newest live-action remake of a classic animated film falls short of its original by several leagues, chiming in as another expensive so-so remake.
Blessed with a huge budget and some wonderful visual effects, Peter Pan & Wendy looks splendid yet doesn’t come close to capturing the vibrancy and magic of the timeless 1953 film, opting rather for a darker take on the legendary “boy who wouldn’t grow up”, as did 2003’s Peter Pan and 2015’s Pan.
There are some nifty visual treats in store, the highlight being the climactic final sequence involving a prolonged fight on Captain Hook’s pirate ship as it floats above the sea, threatening to crash into shoreline cliffs.
Lovers of the Peter Pan story and of the animated film might find some disappointment with the many liberties that have been taken here, most notably the relationship between Pan (Alexander Molony) and Hook (Jude Law, in a suitably fruity performance).
It’s also a bummer that, contrary to casting tradition, Law does not also play the father of Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson), a move that deprives the film of a rich psychological reading.
Come to think of it, the custom of casting a woman in the role of Peter Pan (an early stage tradition to avoid violating child labour laws) would surely have fit into the diversity ethos. It certainly would have given the film another level.
As with too many Disney films of late, Peter Pan & Wendy has had a woke filter imposed on it, with diversity casting and awkward PC moments, such as when the female members of The Lost Boys ark up when their gender is innocently queried. Why not just leave it?
While director David Lowery – whose raft of fine films include Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, A Ghost Story and The Old Man & the Gun – has professed a deep love for the animated film, something has clearly been lost, or at least diluted, in the translation.
As is often the case, this live-action remake serves to remind us how great the original was as well as spotlighting superior reworkings of the story, the best being Steven Spielberg’s 1991 comic fantasy Hook, with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. What a hoot that film still is.
All up Wendy & Peter Pan passes muster as an OK time killer, working well enough as a viewing option for a rainy afternoon.
THE INSPECTION ** (95 minutes) MA
Here’s the latest demonstration of how good intentions alone aren’t enough to make a good film.
Based on the jagged experience of writer/director Elegance Bratton, The Inspection follows the travails of patriotic young man Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) who battles anti-gay sentiment while training to become a marine.
Pope puts in a strong performance, as does Gabrielle Union as his disapproving mother, yet the heavy-handed direction locks the film into a predictable polemic, particularly with its clumsy handling of the dubious “don’t ask, don’t tell” credo.
There’s also some muffled storytelling, an instance being a sequence where the platoon’s mandatory homophobe tries cheating French out of a high score on the shooting range. After going to all the trouble of setting the situation up, the scene then dissolves as though there’s a scene missing.
Obviously made on a low budget, The Inspection doesn’t have much cinematic flair (like too many cinema releases). It was theatrically released in the US last November, played to a very small public and came out on disk and VOD earlier this year (thank you, Wikipedia).
Best to save yourself $20 and wait for it to hit the stream.