Hook

 Spielberg's "Hook" (1991) is a strange but not disagreeable mix of all of Barrie's stories about Peter Pan as well as the story of Barrie's own life. Scenes from Barrie's novel "Peter and Wendy" are combined with his "Scenario for a Proposed Film of Peter Pan" and even an early, now deleted scene from "Peter Pan", where Smee appears as the caretaker in Kensington Gardens, has found its way to the film along with "real" things such as the Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Peter Pan-statue in Kensington Gardens.

 With a screenplay written by Jim V. Hart and Malia Scotch Marmo, the film tells the story of the grown-up Peter Pan (Robin Williams) whose children are being kidnapped by Hook (Dustin Hoffman) and Smee (Bob Hoskins). It is now up to Peter to free them with the help of Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts). Glenn Close, Phil Collins, David Crosby, Carrie Fisher and George Lucas cameo and the film is packed with Peter Pan inside jokes, references to and/or twisted lines and quotes from Barrie's books.

 The film has many brilliant details, but unfortunately it is also pretty saccharine and sentimental like American family films often are, and then it is full of careless mistakes. One of the worst is Hook wearing the hook on his left hand like in the Disney film and not on the right like Barrie's Hook. But maybe this is just a nod to Disney? Or to Barrie's notion that you think more sinister through your left arm than your right? Or maybe Hook has the hook on his left hand because Dustin Hoffman is right handed like Hook and couldn't work with the hook on this hand - something Hook had to!

 Anyway, another mistake that the film has "inherited" from Disney is that Neverland is a planet and not like in Barrie's original works an island. In Barrie's works Neverland is actually an island on Earth near Hawaii where you have to steer by the star on the second to the right to get there.

 "Hook" refers to different Robin Williams film ("Popeye", "Goodmorning, Vietnam", Dead Poets' Society") and to Spielberg's two Peter Pan-related films "Jaws" and "E.T." In "Jaws" (1975) the relationship between Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) and the shark is equivalent to the one between Captain Hook and the crocodile and in "E.T." (1982), there are several references to "Peter Pan". For instance when the mother Mary (Dee Wallace) tells her daughter the story of Tinker Bell being poisoned and that Tinker Bell is saved through belief. Later E.T. returns to life after the son Elliott (Henry Thomas) has promised to believe in him.

 All in all "Hook" is not that bad, but it's not good either. There are many interesting details for Peter Pan fans, but in general the film is just too "American." It's all too cute and sentimental and especially Neverland looks awfully fake. Spielberg hasn't succeeded in communicating the special blend of sweetness, magic and cruelty that is so characteristic of European fairy tales and it is no wonder that the British members of the cast such as Maggie Smith (Wendy) and Arthur Malet (Tootles) are a lot more believable than the American. For although it is fun seeing Dustin Hoffman as Hook, Hook is a British gentleman and let's face it: Dustin Hoffman is not!

 3 out of 5 stars: ***

  Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 1991

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