Peter Pan P.J. Hogan

Peter Pan P.J. Hogan
On the eve of yet another Michael Jackson trial, is there no better time than now for a remake of the J.M. Barrie classic Peter Pan? Australian director PJ Hogan (Muriel's Wedding) grabs the reins of this panto that at its core tells of the predicament of growing up.

Our man Peter (Jeremy Sumpter) eschews it all costs, while Wendy (Rachel Hunter-Wood, an unknown splendidly cast in her first role) is caught somewhere in-between. And smitten? Well, let's just say that in this version one of our leads is not afraid of letting her feelings hang out. But Thirteen this is not. The directness with which our Wendy tackles her burgeoning womanhood is tame in comparison, and at times downright refreshing in its purity.

Such sassiness aside, one can't help but wonder what keeps this version, on the eve of its first mounting some 100 years ago, from ever getting off the ground? Inevitably, it's the director's choice of respectfully sticking to the original story's telling that, though reverential, keeps it from making any real impact.

Unlike Spielberg before him with Hook, whose child-inside-the-man version won with the audience but stuck in the craw of critics, Hogan chooses the well-trod path and misses out on any real chance of reinventing or reinvigorating a story that has embedded itself into our culture. What he and his team of Industrial Light and Magic–trained technicians have fooled themselves into believing is that money thrown at a project can make it seem new again.

Despite some great technical derring-do in some of the sequences — the mid-air duelling scenes are fantastically re-imagined — what is lacking is sadly and ironically a lot more magic. This Peter is both bloated and boring; not one you will want to bring any child under the age of five to see. The challenge of keeping them in there seats will drive you through the roof. It's too bad. Neverland could use an overhaul these days, wouldn't you say? (Universal)