Peter Pan

 P. J. Hogan's film "Peter Pan" from 2003 is one of my favourite adaptions of Sir J. M. Barrie's classic and that is solely due to Jeremy Sumpter. This boy sure IS Peter Pan; charming, cruel, gallant, egotistical, dangerous and deadly! It was Barrie himself who didn't think that a man would be able to play Peter Pan, but I'm sure that if he'd seen the Sumpter boy, he would have changed his mind! I've never seen anyone as perfect for this part as him and his acting totally carries the film.

 It isn't a bad film at all. On the contrary: it is beautiful, funny, magic and the basic story is the same as Sir Barrie's. There are lots of details though, that differ from the original. For one the servant girl Liza has been replaced with a rather annoying Aunt Millicent (Lynn Redgrave) and furthermore having Tiger Lily (Carsen Gray) falling in love with John (Harry Newell) instead of Peter Pan, diminishes Peter's power. The entire first part of the film before Peter takes the children to Neverland has hardly anything to do with Barrie's story and neither have many of the adventures on Neverland. One change that I do like, though, is that Wendy is much more independent and courageous than Barrie's heroin. In fact she is a lot more like Maimie, Peter's first love from Kensington Gardens in Sir Barrie's novel "The Little White Bird", and Rachel Hurd-Wood portraits her so well. Another change that I like is the saving of Tinker Bell, which is without doubt the best scene of the entire film!

 All in all, the film gets a lot of things right. I think it's the first Peter Pan film that shows the mermaids like Barrie intended them to be, namely cruel, cold-blooded creatures, and I like that we get to see a fairy ball, which Barrie tells us in his stories that Peter Pan often attends as a musician. The film also rightfully includes Wendy's fascination of Hook and we even get to see Hook's mangled arm where his hand is missing. And luckily it is his right hand like in Barrie's books and not the left like in Disney's version. The film is gleefully repeating other of Disney's no-nos, though. Like the Disney film it postulates that Neverland is a planet and not an island on Earth like Sir Barrie tells us in his original story, and that Tinker Bell helps Hook capture Wendy and the children, which she most certainly does not do according to Barrie's story!

 Ludivine Sagnier is hilarious as Tinker Bell, by the way, and Jason Isaacs is one of the best Hooks I have seen, especially as he is perfect as Mr. Darling as well, although he does not have Darling's choleric temper. Olivia Williams is pretty as Mrs. Darling, but Richard Briers is fairly boring as Smee and having the grown Wendy (the voice of Saffron Burrows) as the narrator, is a big mistake in my opinion.

 Furthermore it is as if the authors of the screenplay (P. J. Hogan and Michael Goldenberg) can't decide whether or not they want Peter Pan to grow up. On one hand he isn't man enough to conquer Hook until Wendy awakens his mature love, but on the other he doesn't want to become a man when he has the chance. Furthermore by having Wendy kiss Peter, Barrie's idea of innocent youth conquering maturity is ruined and as Peter has already been kissed by Wendy, he never gets the kiss from Mrs. Darling like in Barrie's story.

 No matter what, this version of the Peter Pan story is still one of the best thanks to Jeremy Sumpter as Peter, so there's no doubt in my mind that it deserves 4 out of 5 stars: ****

  Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2003