Starring Jude Law, Alexander Molony, Ever Anderson, Yara Shahidi
Critical Rating: **** of *****
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: **** ½ of *****
Peter Pan & Wendy is the latest movie from Texas filmmaker David Lowery, who has built an impressive filmography comprised of adult-oriented arthouse fare (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, A Ghost Story, The Old Man & The Gun) and delightful retellings of children’s classics (Pete’s Dragon). This new film falls in the latter category as a live-action adaptation of the classic children’s play by J.M. Barrie (which has admittedly been adapted for the screen quite a few times over the years).
Thankfully, Lowery’s distinct filmmaking style sets Peter Pan & Wendy apart from the parade of other Disney remakes and reboots. The level of filmmaking craftmanship on display is evident from the very first shot, an elegant Spielberg-ian one-take through the Darling family’s house, as Wendy (Ever Anderson) searches for her book of Twilight Tales while her brothers John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe) play with wooden toy swords. As a whole, the film is a brisk, lively retelling with memorable performances and elegant camerawork.
On the eve of Wendy’s departure for boarding school, she expresses to her mother (Molly Parker) that she doesn’t want to grow up. This prompts a midnight visitation from Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) and Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi), who whisk Wendy, John and Michael away to Neverland. It’s not long before they catch the attention of Captain Hook (Jude Law), and what follows brings back many of the characters we all know from this tale, including Tiger Lily, Mr. Smee and the Lost Boys.
While the film is mostly a faithful adaptation of Peter Pan, it does follow the recent Disney trend of providing a backstory for an iconic villain – in this case, Captain Hook. In this iteration, Hook and Peter Pan were actually once friends and had a complicated falling out. These villain origin stories have become a bit tiresome in recent years, but having an empathetic and compelling actor like Law in the role of Hook makes it go down smoothly.
While Peter Pan & Wendy certainly doesn’t reinvent the tale of Peter Pan, it’s still the rare Disney reimagining that has heart and purpose, and it’s absolutely worth a look. I would recommend the film for ages six and above. The movie is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Jack Kyser is graduate of Austin High School and NYU Tisch School of Fine Arts.