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Much of my first watching of Peter Pan Live! was spent thinking about the film Hook (1991). Every time something bored or bothered me in the 2014 live version, every time they got something “wrong,” I thought about all the things that Hook got right. But Hook is such an underrated, under-appreciated film.
Critics never seemed to like it and even Spielberg himself, at one time said that he regretted the way the film turned out (only rethinking it after Robin Williams passed, saying that he was glad he made the film because it allowed him to meet Robin). I never understood why it got such a bad wrap. In my opinion Hook is a fantastic film and a fabulous adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It is still one of the best.
Hook was first released in 1991 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars Robin Williams as Peter Banning/Pan, Maggie Smith as Lady Wendy, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, Bob Hoskins as Smee (my favorite Smee), and Dante Basco as Rufio. Along with Charlie Korsmo as Jack, Amber Scott as Maggie, and Caroline Goodall as Moira, Wendy’s granddaughter.
Now after having seen Pan (2015), I have even more respect and admiration for Hook, but I don’t need to compare Hook with it or anything else. It stands strong on its own, even after all these years and here is why:
I cannot think of another adaptation like it, where we see the continuing story of Peter Pan in such a way, that we see what would happen if Peter allowed himself to feel; if each time he took Wendy or her daughter, and so on, to realize what a woman could be to him other than a mother. He allows himself to discover love and give into it and sacrifice his eternal youth.
It is amazing what one little query could become. One of the writers, James V. Hart claims that the inspiration for his version was his son asking him, “What would happen if Peter Pan did grow up?”
Plus, it is much more fun to think that Peter Pan could be real. The idea that Lady Wendy told her stories and their neighbor was J. M. Barrie, who loved her stories so much that he wrote them down in the book we all know. The idea that Peter could easily exist in our own universe is pretty sweet.
2) It is great for kids and adults.
I was only 6 years-old when the film was first released and love it for its juvenile jokes, e.g. Peter getting hit in the junk by the lost boys’ padded sticky arrows and the name-calling battle between Rufio and Peter. (Plus I had a huge crush on Rufio, possibly still do as I follow Dante Basco’s work—especially Avatar: The Last Airbender. Hell, yes, ZUKO). I also enjoyed the colorful sets and props, e.g. the food and the pool of color that Peter falls into when shot out of a giant slingshot to help him remember how to fly.
Now as an adult, when I watch it, I appreciate all the thought and work that went into it. The plot, the characters and all the ways it honors and builds off the original play/book. Some things are overlooked, or not touched upon, like Neverland being asleep or lethargic without Peter there, but who is to say what happens to Neverland when Peter abandons it and grows up. It does seem a very different place when he returns. The pirates have become landlubbers in a town built around their marooned pirate ship and the lost boys have created an elaborate tree fort.
Plus, I get more of the word play and the adult jokes—e.g. Peter calling Tink a Freudian Hallucination and when the fishmonger in the Pirate town calls out “Fresh Fish! We kept the eyes in so they’ll see you through the week.” Fabulous, and such a hidden gem.
Both the kid and the adult in me love the story and adventure.
3) It still brings all the feels.
My heart still skips a beat and tear comes to my eyes when Pockets finds the Peter they knew inside the older Peter. I love Pockets so very much. He is such a little peewee, but he has the biggest heart and never wavered in his support for Peter. (Honestly, I think that Pockets should have been left in charge at the end because of this.)
Even after all this time, I cannot get over the feast scene! When the lost boys lay out a “feast”, Peter finds nothing in the bowls, it baffles him. How could these boys be happy pretending they are eating? When he makes-believe just to start a food fight, it suddenly becomes real. Which plays on the fact that in the past sometimes the boys went without because to Peter make-believe can be too real, but takes it to a new level. Even if you don’t see the multi-layers of it, it always makes me laugh and brings such joy into my heart. I can’t help but smile!
And we cannot forget the joy that comes as we follow Peter as he remembers himself and rescues his kids—and then the heartbreak when the realization hits that he has to leave Neverland and the lost boys again. As a kid, I did not want him to leave because I didn’t want him to be an adult again, because that sounded like the worst thing. This may still be true, in a sense, but now I don’t want to see him leave without the lost boys. Especially knowing what wonderful things Wendy has done for lost boys throughout her years, and I feel that they are missing out on so much by not having a chance to grow up.
Although as a child I thought Moira’s reaction for finding her kids returned safely to her was really awkward, as an adult I can fully understand the gravity of the situation even though I do not have kids of my own. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time, and I actually cried with her this time!
Oh, and that moment when you realize that Wendy still wishes she could have been Peter’s girl. His one and only.
Plus, mad props to John Williams for his soundtrack scores and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) for their amazing work on the fantastical world of Neverland! Together they brought the film to life and man, they make the feels so much stronger!
4) It can turn a hater into a fan.
I say this from experience, because I was not a fan of Disney’s version of Peter Pan, and although I liked the Mary Martin televised stage production, I thought it was silly at times. Generally, Peter Pan was not one of my favorite kids stories, but I loved Hook. I watched it again and again, and after all that time I actually got turned on to the lore and story. I’m not sure I would have given it a second chance without this film.
While in the regular story both Peter and Wendy can seem annoying or off-putting, this story is more complex and changes the way we view Peter Pan, from a magical dream boy to solid, tangible, and believable character—a real person.
The original story gave me no hope when it came to growing up—as if we are all doomed to become sad bloated codfish that was Peter Banning. Stuck inside a whirlwind of so-called “success” shuffled into cubicles, having all the life and fun drained from us slowly and somehow without our knowledge. It scared the living expletives out of me. This film however turns it around, and shows that even if one scenario is that we become sad bland adults, there are other scenarios. Peter is able to turn it around and learn that being a father and just life itself can be a huge adventure. Tootles as well gives an example of someone who never lost Neverland in his heart, and was a kid, in a way, even in his old age.
5) You can play spot the star cameo!
Can you find these stars?
And for extra points:
6) Because it highly honors the story on which it is based, you can play spot the reference/nod!
Still, there are some that are almost glazed over and might take a better knowledge of the original story or many viewings, for example:
I have to say that so much of the cast was just amazing, and sadly overlooked and even considered a black mark in their career but I see it as the opposite.
It has been 24 years since the film was released. I have watched it countless times since then at many different times in my life, and although I felt different things at different ages, one thing always came through, the fun and the happy. I’m always smiling at the end. It has a great message that bears repeating:
Getting older and growing up doesn’t mean absolutely that you become bored, sad, and serious (really had to hold myself back from quoting Pink Floyd). It is all about keeping the child inside alive and treating all life as an adventure.
My final thought is that this movie is truly BANGARANG!*
*According to Urban Dictionary, Bangarang means: