- Directed by
- David Lowery
- Jude Law, Ever Anderson, Alexander Molony, Yara Shahidi
- Written by
- David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks
- Run Time
- 1 hr. 49 min.
- Release Date
- April 28th, 2023
Disney has been making live-action remakes since the 90’s, but since 2015’s Cinderella they have released one every year, in 2019 there were five. Of them all there have only been a few that were worth the effort, the afore mentioned Cinderella and 2016’s The Jungle Book were two that were not completely soulless. Beauty and the Beast was good because of casting and because it mostly stuck to the script. Cruella was one of the best, but I really don’t count it as it is an origin story of a classic animated character. So with their latest Peter Pan & Wendy I was not very hopeful, having it going straight to Disney+ instead of theaters.(seems Disney didn’t have much hopes for it either) However I was interested enough since this was helmed by David Lowery who was responsible for the best remake to date of the Disney animated catalog: Pete’s Dragon.
Wendy Moria Angela Darling (Ever Anderson) is the oldest of three with two younger brothers John (Joshua Pikering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe). On the eve of her last night in her London home she argues with her mother (Molly Parker) and declares that she does not want to grow up. That evening she is visited by the farie Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi) and the legendary Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) along with his shadow. Much like the death of Batman’s parents we see another version of the usual chasing of the shadow, the thimble as a kiss, and the thinking happy thoughts to fly over the skies of London. Leading to the familiar yet still beautiful looking Neverland. Here Wendy and her brothers encounter pirates led by the villainous Captain Hook (Jude Law) the cute and helpful Lost Boys, and Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatâhk) leading to an adventure of a lifetime.
The world is not what is was in 1953 when the animated version of Peter Pan was released, the Civil Rights Movement was just beginning, we were less than a decade removed from World War II, and the idea of “family” was more black and white than it is today. Things were even more complex when J. M. Barrie created Peter Pan and Wendy in 1904, even though it was the beginning of professional soccer and the first time a subway was ever used. The treatment of women and minorities still had a long, long, long way to go.
With all that complicated history, making a faithful and yet modern re-telling of this classic story was filled with challenges for director Lowery. It is very clear that he has a passion for the source material, he keeps in so much of the original dialogue and set-pieces used in the book and animated film. So it’s most of what we have already seen ten times over.
Where he excels is delving deeper into the characters. Jude Law’s Hook is simply the best ever put on film. He’s like the best of the Marvel villains, he has a purpose and though twisted, a clear and relatable reason to hate Peter Pan. Wendy’s arc is also much more developed here and Anderson is destined for stardom much like her mother Milla Jovovich. Both her and Law do so much with a look as they do when they speak. The only weak link is Alexander Molony, which is unfortunate since his characters name is the first one of the title. He has a great look, but his deliveries are flat and he has very little grace compared to other Peter’s who inhabited the role including Robin Williams. Which I agree isn’t fair since he wasn’t a child at the time but it’s difficult to see what Lowrey saw in him for this role.
The clear standouts are the backstories of the characters and their motivations, in what could have been seen as a obvious inclusive move is Tinker Bell, Shahidi does quite a bit with very little, and her motivations are much more believable than the bratty and jealous animated version. Given even less to do was Wapanatâhk as Tiger Lily, she shines in most her moments, but it gives no clear reason to why she is there. The story is solid and despite a few chinks in the armor it is still very entertaining. The young women are not damsels and the boys are lost but eventually found so even though Peter Pan & Wendy doesn’t soar to new heights, there is more than enough to have this be the version to show to kids since its creation over 100 years ago.