We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
I'm not sure how to describe this "Peter Pan" to you. It's so different from what I expected. I walked in anticipating a sweet kiddie fantasy and was surprised to find a film that takes its story very seriously indeed, thank you, and even allows a glimpse of underlying sadness. To be Peter Pan is fun for a day or a year, but can it be fun forever? Peter is trapped in Groundhog Day, repeating the same adventures, forever faced with the tiresome Capt. Hook, always shackled to Tinker Bell, who means well but would get on your nerves if you took a three-day bus trip with her.
"Peter," asks Wendy, "what are your real feelings?" Those are precisely what Peter is unable to share. This expensive new production, shot in Australia and unveiling a young unknown as the beautiful Wendy, is aware of the latent sexuality between the two characters, and Peter is a little scared of that. They are at precisely the age when it is time to share their first real kiss -- and they do so, astonishing the other characters (they've never seen that before -- not in the cartoon, not on the stage -- never!).
The movie has been directed by P.J. Hogan, best known for the Julia Roberts comedy "My Best Friend's Wedding." Here he stays closer to the J.M. Barrie book, which is about to celebrate its centenary, and also closer to the book's buried themes, which are sidestepped by most versions of "Peter Pan." When a muscular and bare-chested gamin appears on the windowsill of the prettiest 12-1/2-year-old in London and asks her to fly away from home and family to join with the Lost Boys in Neverland, he is exactly the kind of strange man her mother should have warned her about. When the other major player in Neverland is the one-armed Capt. Hook, who takes an uncomfortably acute interest in both Peter and Wendy, there's enough inspiration here to have Freud gnawing on his cigar.
It's not that the movie is overtly sexual; it's just that the sensuality is there, and the other versions have pretended that it was not. The live action contributes to the new focus; Peter Pan is played by Jeremy Sumpter, who was so effective in Bill Paxton's "Frailty," and Wendy Darling is played by Rachel Hurd-Wood, who was selected at an open casting call and is delightful in her first role. They're attractive young people in roles that in the past have been played by such actors as Robin Williams and Mary Martin, and there is chemistry on the screen.