Should I Watch..? 'Hook'
What's the big deal?
Hook is a fantasy adventure movie released in 1991 and acts as a sequel to the novel Peter And Wendy by J.M. Barrie. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film casts Robin Williams as a middle-aged Peter Pan who is dragged back to Neverland by his nemesis Captain Hook after Peter's children are kidnapped. The film also stars Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Julia Roberts, Maggie Smith, Charlie Korsmo and Amber Scott. The film had been in pre-production since the Eighties but Spielberg abandoned the project after the birth of his son Max before returning to it in 1989. Sadly, the film received a lukewarm reception from critics and the film under-performed at the box office despite earning more than $300 million. It did, however, receive five nominations at the following year's Academy Awards.
What's it about?
Peter Banning is an overworked lawyer in San Francisco who journeys to London with his wife Moira and children Jack and Maggie to visit Wendy, Moira's grandmother. After a night at a charity dinner, Peter and Moira return to find their children apparently kidnapped by one Captain James Hook. Wendy reveals that the stories of Peter Pan were true and that Peter forgot his true identity after he grew up. After an impromptu visit from Tinkerbell, Peter is helped to fly back to Neverland in order to rescue his children.
But things have changed since Peter left Neverland for good - the Lost Boys spend most of their time squabbling under the watchful eye of leader Rufio while Hook himself is disappointed that his arch-nemesis has become a boring, insignificant, middle-aged man. With just three days to rescue his kids from Hook's clutches, Peter is given a crash-course by Tinkerbell in reclaiming his lost youth.
Peter Banning / Peter Pan
Capt. James Hook
James V. Hart & Malia Scotch Marmo *
Release Date (UK)
10th April, 1992
Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Academy Award Nominations
Best Set Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup, Best Original Song
Worst Supporting Actress (Roberts)
What's to like?
Hook might try to put a different spin on a familiar story but unfortunately, it doesn't quite pull it off. Granted, the film makes a great effort to appeal to children by being full of noise, colour and imagination. Neverland itself is a surreal blend of inspirations and offers a vivid and lively Jolly Roger populated by a motley assortment of pirates. Led by Hoffman and Hoskins as the overly camp Hook and Smee, the scenes with such characters are enjoyable and much more fun than those with Peter and the Lost Boys.
In retrospect, the film does a decent job of reviving the setting and breathing new life into a character that hadn't really been culturally active since Disney's much-loved 1953 animated version, Peter Pan. It looks the part, has two great performances from its lovable baddies and certainly isn't as racially insensitive as the earlier flick. Sadly, the film has a great many flaws that this viewer can't ignore.
- Due to her behaviour on set caused by working in isolation on a green screen, Roberts would become known as Tinkerhell by the crew.
- The film has a enviable list of stars making cameos. Phil Collins plays Inspector Good, country star Jimmy Buffett plays a pirate who tries stealing Peter's shoes, Glenn Close appears as a male pirate berated by Hook while George Lucas and Carrie Fisher play the kissing couple on the bridge sprinkled with fairy dust when Tinkerbell escorts Peter to Neverland.
- James Madio, who plays one of the Lost Boys, kept continually asking Spielberg the name of his character until the director cut him off by saying "don't ask!". Hence, the character is listed in the credits as Don't Ask!
What's not to like?
For all the glee brought to the picture by Hoffman & Hoskins, there is a curious detachment from almost everybody else. Williams could play the man-child better than almost anybody but his interpretation of the character feels somewhat off. Pan was cocky, arrogant and self-assured but Williams seems totally out of his depth. I blame the script which tries to be too clever - why meddle with a highly successful formula in the interest of trying to find a new take on the story? They'd have been better remaking the original for a modern audience.
Like most kids in American movies, Korsmo and Scott are very annoying and Scott especially works too hard trying to be cute instead of likeable. The whole thing feels as though it was made by committee instead of people genuinely invested in the project. Take the demographic of the Lost Boys as an example - there is at least one child from seemingly every culture and nationality (or racial stereotype) on Earth and you half-suspect that this was not only to appeal to as wide an audience as possible but also to right the wrongs of the 1953's somewhat old-fashioned approach to race relations (there is no sign of Tiger Lilly or native American Indians anywhere in Hook). Throw in an increasingly sexualised - in a PG-way - Tinkerbell in the form of Roberts wearing her rictus grin and the film comes across as disjointed and disingenuous.
Should I watch it?
It's such a shame that Hoffman and Hoskins put all their effort in to make their roles enjoyable and memorable in a film that is otherwise extremely forgettable. The film lacks interest, energy and cohesion without bringing anything new to the numerous interpretations and versions of Peter Pan in the mainstream media. Hook is the ultimate candyfloss movie - it's too sweet, fluffy and insubstantial and after a while, it's probably going to make you feel sick.
Great For: very young children, anyone not familiar with Disney's version, the pause button
Not So Great For: adults, critics, child actors (not many seemed to have much of a career after this film)
What else should I watch?
Despite its age and its aforementioned old-fashioned depiction of native Americans, Peter Pan remains the most enjoyable version of the story for me. Like Hoffman, Hans Conreid plays a wonderfully enjoyable Captain Hook who has since passed into Disney's pantheon of legendary villains. Complete with beautiful animation and your typically brilliant Disney soundtrack, the film still stands head-and-shoulders above its contemporaries like 2003's Peter Pan or the fairly dreadful Pan which bombed so badly, its fairy-dust ran out mid-showing.
Of course Disney have already sewn up the pirate genre with the hugely successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, based on one of its rides in one of their many theme parks. The Curse Of The Black Pearl was the first and best instalment, being far more enjoyable than anyone supposed thanks to Johnny Depp's iconic performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. While Dead Man's Chest wasn't a complete disaster, At World's End was a messy and bloated finale that underwhelmed. However, because it still made loads of cash, Disney performed CPR on the series and have released two further films to a mixed reception - On Stranger Tides and Salazar's Revenge. One wonders how much longer the series can sail before it sinks altogether.
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© 2018 Benjamin Cox