Did Peter Pan really need an origin story? Is it perhaps a bit too much desperation in Hollywood’s never-ending search for fresh product? Is the venerable Pan story too classic for that? Should we really be concerned?
The good news is, um … no? Also good news is that it’s not abominable. It’s actually not that bad—for children. Maybe a little dark. But children these days have already seen much, much worse. In fact, considering what they can avail themselves of, on the down-low, away from the eyes of parents—this “Pan” could almost be considered therapeutic.
I say “almost.” Blackbeard at one point shouts, “You shall be rewarded with confectionary!” Children love confectionary more than life itself. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Sugar is bad. This “Pan” is cinematic confectionary. Therefore, “Pan” may only taste good, and not actually be good for them.
Away to Neverland
Little Peter (Levi Miller) is a courageous boy in a Dickensian orphanage with nasty nuns, amid World War II London bombings and buzzing Nazi Messerschmitts everywhere.
He and his buddies like to do a little nightly ninja-ing about in the orphanage, raiding pantries, finding fun food, foiling fat nuns. This is a jolly good time for small viewers.
But they get snatched! Out of their beds and high into the sky by clowns, no wait—pirates! On big bungee-cords! Up-up-up to flying galleons belonging to the terrible (and terribly toupee’d) pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman)!
Off they fly, avoiding Messerschmitt bombardment by elevating up and away, where the air is too thin for mundane prop-planes, and soon Blackbeard is standing in a very Mad Max-like place, (the latest one, with Charlize Theron) a great canyon of stone, hollering down to his legions of minions (who are miners) giving a motivational speech!
And then everyone sings Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” together like an anthem. Naturally. What else? Why would you even begin to question that choice of song? Kurt Cobain may roll over in his grave, but your kids are happy because they may know this song. You certainly do, millennial parent, and so you smile and sing along.
There’s “Pixum” in them thar hills. It’s not a metal, you see, but crystallized fairy dust. “Pixum”… “pixie,” get it? Blackbeard hoovers pixum powder up his schnozz so he can stay eternally young. Like a fairy. Can you see why a detailed synopsis might be beside the point?
Okay a Tiny Bit More Synopsis
Suffice to say, Captain Hook (Garrett Hedlund) is here, but he’s not that dastardly guy yet, he’s just a nice young man (if a bit disingenuous and smarmy around women) not having had any crocodile-bit-his-hand-off-necessitating-a-hook-hence-his-name trauma yet. So why is he already named Hook? We don’t know. We don’t care.
Hedlund’s American accent clashes with all the British ones everyone else has; but maybe that makes him more relatable. Hard to tell what the logic behind this *cough* artistic choice, was.
But there’s a crocodile, and it’s very big! There are also mermaids played by models (actually one model, Cara Delivigne), which is maybe a new creature altogether. Call it a merdel. This merdel looks quite nice. She’s sure to be back for the next two of these “Pan” tales that are apparently in the works.
There’s lots of tribal stuff, and some big cartoon-ish birds. And variously colored smoke. And a “hive” of fairies. And more flying ships. Oh, and remember Smee from the original Pan? He’s here (Adeel Akhtar), and he’s like an Indian Russell Brand. Same Cockney accent, bigger beard. Mildly amusing.
Levi Miller as Peter is an appealing child actor with a fair amount of charisma, and Rooney Mara as Queen Tiger Lily is wooden-faced but somehow likeable. Amanda Seyfriend, even though barely visible as a cloud of pixie dust, may bring a tear to your eye.
Hugh Jackman is having big fun here, far from Wolverine, and Garett Hedlund is the one glaring element that doesn’t match up with anything, even though none of this monumental hodge-podge matches.
All in All
It’s all way too much, and too loud and just … a bit stupid. But you know what? It somehow works. It works if you go to the movies sacrificing your adult need to be entertained on an adult level.
Normally this cacophony and concoction and stealing from sources as diverse as “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Mad Max,” “The Croods,” “Avatar,” “Oliver Twist,” “Hook,” “Lord Of The Rings,” Nirvana, the Ramones, (Oh yeah, the other song the miners sing is “Blitzkrieg Bop.” Just … wow).
Where was I? Yeah—normally all of this would add up to a towering, colossal heap of kitsch, but it manages to somehow blend. How? Hmm … maybe it’s the color green? The green of jungles and crocodiles and tribal headdresses and colored smoke and fairies. There’s somehow a continuity. Can’t quite put my finger on it. But again, we don’t know. And we don’t care. Because while it’s an adult 1.5 stars, it’s a 3-star kid movie. Take the children. And as I always like to say, have a nap. You know you want to.
Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried, Cara Delevigne, Adeel Akhtar
Running Time: 1 hour 51 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 9
Rated 3 (child) stars out of 5