‘Peter Pan & Wendy’ tells the classic story with a few new hooks

Along with all the adventure, live-action remake on Disney+ notes the perennial boy’s sadness and selfishness.

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Wendy (Ever Gabo Anderson) is swept away to Neverland in “Peter Pan & Wendy.”


The thing about these Disney live-action remakes is they don’t have the magical power to suddenly make the original works disappear. If you’re genuinely upset about the diverse casting in “Peter Pan & Wendy” because it somehow ruins your delicate childhood memories of watching the 1953 Disney animated film—well, first of all, we’re talking about a magical boy who doesn’t grow up and a FAIRY, among other characters, so I think there’s plenty of room for poetic license. Also, you don’t HAVE to watch this new movie. Through the magic of streaming, you can catch the 1953 “Peter Pan” right now if you’re willing to spend a few bucks. Childhood memories saved!

For those capable of cherishing the 1953 film—or maybe one of the dozens of other “Peter Pan” adaptations and spinoffs through the years—while also welcoming the opportunity to see a new take on an old tale, I’m pleased to report that the versatile and talented director David Lowery (“A Ghost Story,” “The Old Man & the Gun,” “The Green Knight”) and the requisite army of technical wizards have delivered one of the most visually stunning trips to Neverland ever recorded on film, featuring a cast of gifted young actors and reliable veterans who seem born to the roles.

Based on the J.M. Barrie novel as well as the 1953 film adaptation (which differ greatly), this is a rousing adventure that embraces the cheeky hijinks of Peter Pan while also addressing the intrinsic melancholic nature of the story. After all, isn’t there something terribly sad and existentially jarring about a boy who is forever trapped as a boy, stuck in a constant loop of battling the same bitter old pirate, day after day, night after night, time after time?

‘Peter Pan & Wendy’


Disney presents a film directed by directed by David Lowery and written by Lowery and Toby Halbrooks, based on the novel by J. M. Barrie and the animated film “Peter Pan.” Rated PG (for violence, peril and thematic elements). Running time: 106 minutes. Available now on Disney+.

OK, OK, I’ll admit that sounds quite dark, and there are times when we’re so mired in one crisis or another that the story could use a bit more levity, but there’s plenty of adventure to be had as well.

“Peter Pan & Wendy” opens in the warm and chaotic Darling household in London, where Wendy (Ever Gabo Anderson) joins her little brothers John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe) in a pretend sword fight based on Peter Pan stories—a fight that ends when Wendy breaks a mirror and Mr. Darling (Alan Tudyk) comes stomping in and scolds Wendy, noting, “You are too old for this to be the type of fun you’re having.” In fact, it is time for Wendy to grow up and she’ll be off to boarding school in the morning, even though she wants things to remain exactly the way they are.

Enter first Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi, wonderfully expressive) and then none other than Peter Pan himself (Alexander Molony). “How are you real?” says the amazed Wendy to Peter. “I thought you were just a bedtime story.”

“Why can’t I be both?” comes the reply.

Peter and Tink whisk Wendy and her brothers to Neverland—they zoom through the night skies like MCU superheroes—and they almost immediately come under attack from the notorious Captain Hook (Jude Law), and off we go on our timeless adventure, which features the occasional musical interlude.

Peter Pan’s merry band of mischief makers are no longer just Lost Boys; we have Lost Boys and Lost Girls, including Skyler and Kelsey Yates as Tudy and Rudy, twin lost girls; Sebastian Billingsley-Rodriguez as Nibs, a lost boy; Diana Tsoy as Birdie, a lost girl, and Noah Matthews Matofsky as Slightly, a lost boy. (Matofsky is the first actor with Down syndrome in a featured role in a Disney film.) Also figuring prominently in the story is Alyssa Wapanatahk’s Tiger Lily, the warrior princess of Neverland’s indigenous tribe. Tiger Lily’s kinda great.


Jude Law hams it up as Captain Hook.


As for mean, cursed ol’ Captain Hook … Jude Law disguises his handsomeness behind a prosthetic nose and some terrible hair, and has a great time hamming it up as the hook-handed villain, who has dozens of Rules of the Ship (“No one shall say the boy’s name. … No whistling. … No clocks”) and sounds like Honey Bunny in “Pulp Fiction” when he says of the children, “Execute every last one of them!” Good thing we have Jim Gaffigan as Mr. Smee along for the ride, providing some welcome comic relief.

Yet for all of Captain Hook’s thirst for violence and revenge, there’s an air of tragedy about him, especially when we learn his back story. (This territory has been explored before, albeit with a different explanation, e.g., in Christina Henry’s 2016 horror novel “Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook.”) Peter Pan, meanwhile, has always had something of a petulant, selfish streak, and that theme is explored as well—though the screenplay eventually gives nearly every character the ending and the fate they deserve, often in warmly upbeat fashion. “Peter Pan & Wendy” really should have been called “Wendy & Peter Pan.” She’s the bravest one of the whole lot.

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