The newest cog in the Disney remake machine has arrived, this time in the form of David Lowery’s newest rendition of the timeless tale, Peter Pan & Wendy. While one’s mileage may certainly vary when it comes to these live action reimaginings, I have personally loved many more of them than I have hated. Unfortunately for Peter Pan & Wendy, it ends up falling somewhere near the bottom of my rankings—just over Maleficent, Mulan, and 1994’s The Jungle Book. At least the movie is competently made, even if there is nothing new to say or portray here. Anyone even remotely familiar with the material may feel some heavy waves of exhaustion trying to wade through, yet the comforting timelessness may still appeal to some.
In the first of many nearly identical beats to the original animated Peter Pan film, Wendy (Ever Anderson) and her brothers (Joshua Pickering, Jacobi Jupe) are being rather rambunctious in the family home. They act out a timeless Peter Pan story, battling one another with thick wooden swords. Their father doesn’t approve of the horseplay, insisting that Wendy is “too old” for this kind of fun. With boarding school imminent, Wendy feels the pressure to be a good leader for her brothers—she doesn’t want to grow up. Cue: a sweet lullaby about growing up overnight. Before long, Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi) and young Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) appear deep into the night. Peter chases his shadow, and claims to have been watching Wendy, waiting for the moment to come fetch her away to Neverland.
By now, the schtick is obvious. In Neverland, there are no rules, no schools, and most importantly: no growing up! Some flying pixie dust and one clock tower vortex later, Wendy and her brothers are whisked away on an unforgettable adventure! No Disney tale is complete without a villain, so that’s where Captain Hook (Jude Law) comes in. Law’s version of this iconic character is less dastardly and more standard villain stuff, though he does get quite a significant backstory that ties him into the larger Lost Boys mythos. It is a shame that Hook doesn’t make more of an impact, because he is easily Peter Pan’s best character.
On occasions when the magic does appear, there are a few cutesy tricks up Peter Pan & Wendy‘s sleeves. Casting Peter as an actual young child adds authenticity and pathos to a previously unlikable character. Swordfights are fun too, and the big “walking the plank” segment is thankfully given the proper dramatic heft. On the flip side, each opportunity to do something new or fresh seems to come with a forgettable caveat. Now the Lost Boys have girls, too. When Wendy inquires about it, she gets a “so?” in response. The harsher edges of Tinker Bell have been frustratingly sanded down, turning her into a stereotypical sidekick. In a modern Disney-fied Disney remake, even the villain gets a happy ending. The power of growing up passes the baton to a new generation in by-the-numbers Peter Pan & Wendy.
Prepare to take flight to Neverland when Peter Pan & Wendy hits Disney+ on Friday, April 28th.