Photograph: Disney
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Peter Pan & Wendy

3 out of 5 stars

Jude Law hooks your attention in this live-action take on Disney’s ’50s animation

Dan Jolin

Time Out says

Ironically for the ‘boy who never grew up’, Peter Pan has gone through a lot of changes during the past few years. Since 2015, he’s popped up in Joe Wright’s misfiring big-budget prequel Pan, Brenda Chapman’s intriguing Come Away (a low-key origin-story mash-up with ‘Alice in Wonderland’) and Benh Zeitlin’s bold, surreal update Wendy. Now we have the inevitable Disney live-action remix of its own 1953 adaptation, in which writer-director David Lowery (who did a lovely Disney do-over with Pete’s Dragon) brings his own take on JM Barrie’s pixie-dusted urchin.

Rather than uninspiringly covering the same plot beats as the animated feature (à la Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin), Lowery wisely shifts his focus away from Peter – an inherently obnoxious character, let’s be honest – towards Wendy (peppy newcomer Ever Anderson, the daughter of Milla Jovovich), a dynamic modern young woman who starts the story feeling anxious and resentful about being packed off to boarding school, and quickly spurns any notion of playing ‘mother’ to Peter and his Lost Boys (and Girls) once she and her little brothers arrive in Neverland.

But Lowery is just as fascinated by Captain Hook (played with snarling gusto by a lank-wigged Jude Law), concocting a back story that ties him closer to Peter (Alexander Molony, doing his best with a thin character) and even teases out some empathy for the old rapscallion. 

Captain Hook is played with snarling gusto by Jude Law 

Of course, this being Disney, the film’s subtler touches are couched amid much glowy VFX spectacle, building to a pleasing swordfight-driven climax on the Jolly Roger as it rotates Inception-like while flying through the air. And, unlike so many of these CG-drenched retreads, Lowery keeps things admirably rooted in physical sets (the Lost Boys’ ruinous lair is especially impressive) and location shoots, with Newfoundland and Labrador lending Neverland their dramatic coastlines.

The film’s conclusion sadly carries the taint of silly schmaltz (‘What kind of magic is this!?’ one character actually says), but like all those non-Disney takes that came before it, this Pan deserves some credit for trying something different. 

Streaming on Disney+ Fri Apr 28.

Cast and crew

  • Director:David Lowery
  • Screenwriter:David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks
  • Cast:
    • Jude Law
    • Alexander Molony
    • Ever Anderson
    • Yara Shahidi
    • Jim Gaffigan
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