Peter Pan & Wendy review: A fairly good fairy-tale
Peter Pan & Wendy has many great ideas of updating the classic animated Disney film, but its execution often falters.
Peter Pan & Wendy is the newest live-action movie to drop on the streaming service Disney+, though it’s a slight deviation rather than a shot-for-shot adaptation of the original animated Peter Pan film.
The official plot of Peter Pan & Wendy is as follows: “Wendy Darling, a young girl looking to avoid boarding school, meets Peter Pan, a boy who refuses to grow up. Wendy, her brothers, and Tinker Bell travel with Peter to the magical world of Neverland, where she encounters an evil pirate captain.”
Peter Pan’s animated feature was arguably needing a modern update, but does this live action film improve upon the source material? Or is it as redundant as some of Disney’s other live-action projects? Let’s get into it, but first – WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR PETER PAN & WENDY AHEAD!
Neverland is no Wonderland
A draw of the original animated film was its setting. While Neverland is ultimately a place we shouldn’t stay in, it’s certainly a place we’re meant to want to visit. But unfortunately, not in this film. Disney is sticking to its theme of setting every British fairy-tale in the drabbest color-palette imaginable. Neverland looks like any drab English seaside, with only one measly rainbow in the background.
The sky is grey, there are no mermaid lagoons, no tropical areas, no whimsy, nowhere to have fun, except perhaps the Lost Boys hideout. There’s barley even any singing, with only Wendy giving a lullaby and the pirates chanting a sea shanty. There’s no “You can fly!” song here, save for the musical motif. The drabness is potentially making a point, perhaps that childhood is less bright as you’d expect, but that point would essentially be a redundant one.
Going back to the Lost Boys, one fear audiences may have with any child-led movie is the acting. Thankfully, in Peter Pan & Wendy the kids can be a little stilted, but they’re passable for the most part. There’s no one actor that will have your eyes rolling.
Jude Law shines as Captain Hook, as anyone would, but he feels rather underutilised. Hook is certainly expanded in this film emotional-wise, but he’s not very funny, and being ridiculous was part of what made him so iconic. Neither he nor Smee will have you chuckling for very long, and neither does this movie as a whole.
The female characters are also expanded, in a very modern manner. This works in regards to Wendy – who gets a proper arc in this film – and Tiger Lily – who isn’t reduced to a harmful stereotype – but this approach falters when it comes to Tinkerbell. Tinkerbell’s personality was perhaps an issue for modern audiences; she was jealous and possessive over Peter, but softening her leaves her with little to no personality, and pretty much nothing to do.
Peter Pan & Wendy takes its title to task
Tinkerbell’s diminishment may be a sacrifice for what is definitely a strength of this film – the expansion of Peter Pan’s faults. This not only makes the film more interesting, it also gives this remake a reason for existing.
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This movie takes Peter, and his need to keep everyone young, to task. The story does an exceptional job of this by grabbing a concept many fans of the animated film love, and making it a central plot – that Hook was once a Lost Boy too. The movie does as much with this relationship as it can, making it the most interesting aspect of this remake.
Wendy also takes Peter to task, though to slightly lesser effect. Mainly because you rarely see them have fun together, so the film is lacking in them having a genuine child-like bond. And while Wendy’s arc is done better than it is in the original, it’s still too rushed, as are most arcs in this film.
While its nice to have a movie that’s under two hours nowadays, every plot feels like it needs just one or two more scenes to fully flesh things out. The same can be said for some shots of the movie; the editing can be rushed to the point of obtrusive, especially in the action scenes.
The only slow shots are the constant cuts to Tinkerbell, which are way too pointless to occur so often, considering that she remains silent. You get that they’re tying to include her in the conversation, trying to give her something to say, but ultimately, it comes across as awkward. Which can pretty much sum up this whole movie.
Peter Pan & Wendy review score: 3/5
Peter Pan & Wendy has plenty of good ideas. If there was one Disney flick that was arguably ripe for an update, it would be this one. And to its credit, the story significantly explores many issues that fans have already had with the fairy-tale.
However, the execution of said exploration ultimately ends up like this Wendy’s trip to Neverland. Potentially fun, and certainly not lacking in introspection, but ultimately underwhelming.
Peter Pan & Wendy is now available to stream on Disney+. Read more about the film below:
Is Peter Pan & Wendy based on a book? | When and where can I watch Peter Pan & Wendy? | Peter Pan & Wendy: Live action cast & characters | Does Peter Pan & Wendy have a post-credits scene? | 5 differences between Peter Pan & Wendy 2023 and Peter Pan 1953