PETER PAN & WENDY (DISNEY+) (2023)
SYNOPSIS: “Peter Pan & Wendy” introduces Wendy Darling, a young girl looking to avoid boarding school who meets Peter Pan, a boy who refuses to grow up. Alongside her brothers and a tiny fairy, Tinker Bell, she travels with Peter to the magical world of Neverland. There, she encounters an evil pirate captain, Captain Hook, and embarks on a thrilling and dangerous adventure that will change her life forever.
Peter Pan never gets old in Neverland and Disney’s habits of turning their classic animated titles to live-action never gets old either. David Lowery and his frequent collaborator, Toby Halbrooks based this adaptation on the 1953 Disney animated film though nothing new or interesting is added to the final product in the end.
When Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson) proclaims to her mother that she does not want to grow up before she leaves for boarding school in the morning, Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) turned up in the middle of the night with Tinkerbell (Yara Shahidi) to take her and her brothers, John and Michael to Neverland where she will never have to grow up.
For those familiar with the J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, you will expect Peter and Wendy to encounter the former’s arch-nemesis, Captain Hook (Jude Law), a meetup with the Lost Boys and Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatahk), a huge confrontation with the pirates and a gigantic crocodile.
With the inclusion of a Black Tinkerbell (diverse casting by the way) and the emphasis more on Wendy on the whole, Lowery’s Peter Pan & Wendy fails to generate much magic or relevancy to modern society with its closing message. Wendy is established as a strong female character probably more than strong enough to save the entire tribe from the pirates instead of relying on Pan’s wittiness and Tinkerbell’s pixie dust. Tinkerbell’s jealousy of Peter and Wendy budding romance is also forsaken in this version and she stays mute most of the screentime.
Sadly, even Anderson and Molony generates little chemistry to keep audiences engaged on their relationship or friendship. The narrative did include a backstory of Captain Hook who was once known as James and a best friend of Peter Pan. To be honest, it adds nothing to the story on the whole except giving Law a few more pages of dialogue to make his presence worthwhile.
For a title released directly to Disney+, the production values look horrid just like Robert Zemeckis’ Pinocchio, the CGI looks way off and we can’t tell if the props and costumes are simply leftovers from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Given Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon was such a delight, Peter Pan & Wendy is a complete letdown from the boring storytelling, stiff acting to the less than desirable leading characters. We have a prequel in Pan (2015), a sequel in Hook (1991) and the superb P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan (2003) but nothing come close to Lowery and Disney ruining the movie adaptation in 2023. Kids are going to fall asleep before Wendy and her brothers even reaches Neverland while adults are likely switching to other flicks by then.
Review by Linus Tee