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Peter Pan & Wendy Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

Another day, another live-action adaptation by Disney. The terrible acting, dark & gloomy lighting, just like the grey-washed colours, suck the fun out of this fairy tale!

Genre: Adventure / Fantasy

Director: David Lowrey

Cast: Alexander Molony, Ever Anderson, Joshua Pickering, Jacobi Jupe, Jude Law, Yara Shahidi, Alyssa Wapanathâhk, Molly Parker, Aland Tudyk & Jim Gaffigan.

Run Time: 109 min.

US Release: 28 April 2023 (Disney+)

UK Release: 28 April 2023 (Disney+)

German Release: 28 April 2023 (Disney+)

Here we are again, with another Disney live-action remake of one of their animated classics. Lowrey, who successfully remade the “so-so” original Pete’s Dragon, was again approached to co-write/direct. The first trailer appeared mere two months before release, which already created controversy due to the grim colours and gender-driven dialogue. Having been finally released on the studio’s streaming platform, I just have one question: Why? There are so many Peter Pan adaptations, if not done it right, why bother? Because this doesn’t live up to any of them, not even the laughably mediocre Pan from 2015.

Defying her parents’ wishes to attend a boarding school far from home, Wendy travels with her two younger brothers John and Michael, to the magical world of Neverland. There, she meets a boy who refuses to grow up, a fairy with magical pixie dust, as well as a dangerous evil pirate captain.

My personal history, considering the classic animation by Walt Disney, is probably the same as anyone else. My family had the complete collection of the studio's classic animations on VHS, updating it with new releases that followed. Though I enjoyed the adventures of the title characters, it was never really my favourite. What I mostly remember is the song “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!”. The original animation is very much a product of its 50s era, containing less than favourable depictions of Native Americans.

The planned remake led the House of Mouse to take up the chance to rewrite its own history. Nothing speaks against revising problematic depictions of past characters, and the movie does a good job of giving Tiger Lily the credit she deserves, as a proud Indigenous woman. It also fleshes out the relationship between Pan and Hook, giving the pirate Captain a long overdue past. I still would have wished for Law to play both, Hook, as well as Mr. Darling; a metaphorical depiction of the issues Wendy has with her father.

That said, it wouldn’t be Disney, if they wouldn’t completely overreact, going the other extreme. Losing its innocent magic, the adventurous tale is watered down to a minimum, to include as much gender politics as possible! Male lead characters are portrayed as being toxic, unwilling to listen to women. The ladies are then forced to take charge to undo the mess, created by the boys, who are inept to do so themselves.

Then there is the whole aspect of how The Lost Boys include girls now, because why not... No issues with that, though why stick to the term “boys” then? Why rub it into the audience’s nose during a conversation? It feels very much aggressive! It also undoes what J. M. Barrie included in his novel: “There are no lost girls because girls are far too clever to fall out of their prams.” The term “Lost Boys” also has historical reasons, coming from a period in which there were a lot of orphans, with girls being usually the ones adopted.

The dialogue spoon-feeds exposition. The tic-tocking crocodile was always a metaphor for the passage of time, as well as mortality. In Peter Pan & Wendy, however, this needs to be explicitly spelt out, just in case audiences don’t understand what it is about.

As far as characterisation goes, I appreciated some updates to specific personas. Yet, apart from Weny, who gets the full spotlight in this film, no one else is truly explored.

Alexander Molony, who plays Pan, gives the worst rendition out of the complete cast. This is especially noticeable when he is performing next to Jude Law. His line delivery is wooden, the physical acting is wonky, and he has no chemistry with either Wendy, Tinker Bell or Hook. Peter was never the most charming character, however, here he is portrayed as nearly insufferable.

Ever Anderson as Wendy is okay. She overacts quite a bit throughout the first half but gets into a more steady flow along the last half of the story. I did appreciate the angle the filmmakers were going for, with her finally accepting responsibility to grow up, yet it was overshadowed by all the other topics that were force-crammed into the plot.

Jude Law does give the strongest performance as Hook. At first, coming off as manically evil, it is later revealed that he does have a more interesting backstory with Peter. Unfortunately, his past is only investigated ever so slightly.

Finally, I want to give praise to Yara Shahidi, who gave a solid physical performance as Tinker Bell. While I understand that her tinkling, bell-like voice is taken from the original story, given the many changes made, they could have given her an actual voice with dialogue.

The camera work is equally mediocre, using dolly zooms, just like a lot of high-angled shots. The grey hue, desaturating a lot of the colours, sucked out the wonder from this children’s fairy tale. The dim lighting does also cause for a loss in magic.

The effects are among the worst I have seen in a long time! The over-reliance on CGI gives the whole picture a fabricated atmosphere. Tinker Bell’s miniaturised effect makes her look out of place at times, and the short appearance of the crocodile reminded more of the 2018 Rampage movie. Neverland feels more like an Irish island, than a magical, tropical paradise.

The musical score, composed by Daniel Hart, is the best part of the entire premise. Using orchestral sounds similar to John Williams, to compose an epic adventure tune.


Verdict: I am utterly disappointed by this live-action rehash from Disney. Not only does it waste a perfectly good director, it also manages to suck out all the wonder from one of the most iconic fairy tales. Though I am nostalgic towards the classic animation of the early 50s, it never was among my top favourite animations by the studio. I also agree with the fact that it contains some racial stereotypes, concerning American indigenous people. That said, there was no reason to forcefully include 21st-century politics into the plot of a children's fairy tale and make it a main topic. It does contain interesting ideas, but these are never explored, while the dialogues spoon-feed exposition. The cast is overall mediocre, with Jude Law plus a dialogue-less Yara Shahidi giving the best performances as Hook and Tinker Bell respectively. Alexander Molony is the weakest link in the cast. The cinematography is mediocre, the effects border on terrible. Peter Pan & Wendy is another misfire by Disney. A 4.0 out of 10.

Do you agree with my review? Which of the studio’s live-action remakes is your favourite? Leave a comment below & if you like the content, please subscribe! Thank you for reading.

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