When I first heard that Disney was making a new live-action Peter Pan film, I was skeptical. With so many iterations of the Peter Pan story, do we really need another one? Then I saw the cast and got a little more excited.
A relative unknown for Peter Pan? He must have really wowed them. A POC Tinkerbell? Absolutely, LET’S GO! Milla Jovovich’s daughter is Wendy! Jude Law and Jim Gaffigan as Captain Hook and Smee?! This definitely has legs. You think with all those happy thoughts by the end of the 90-minute film I would have been soaring through the air. However, that’s not the case for me at all. I found myself relating more to Peter Pan’s shadow trying to escape than anything else.
WHAT PETER PAN AND WENDY GET RIGHT AND WRONG
I’ll start with the titular characters of Peter Pan and Wendy. Alexander Malony’s Peter Pan was a bit rough for me. He lacked all the childlike wonder, mischievousness, and fun of the original character. Even when he was crowing a taunt at Captain Hook it doesn’t hit the way it’s supposed to.
That said, I truly don’t know if this was a performance issue or a writing issue. Either way, this version of Peter Pan is lacking. On the flip side, Gabo Anderson (Black Widow) as Wendy is exceptional and light among the cast. She is feisty, strong, and everything I remember from the eldest Darling child. However, she annoyingly gets pushed aside a lot for the real story of the film, Peter and Hook’s relationship.
Tinkerbell was the next huge letdown. Yara Shahidi (Grown-ish) misses the mark on the mischief incarnate that is Tinkerbell. This Tinkerbell almost seemed…reserved. Which isn’t a way I’d ever describe the character. Some high points in the cast were Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatahk) and The Lost Boys. I wish we’d had more time with Alyssa Wapanatahk’s Tiger Lily because, the little that I saw of her, I liked a lot.
I love the fact that Lost Boys was an all-encompassing term here. Children of all genders and backgrounds were welcomed into this little family. However, these kids’ personalities felt more like Lord of the Flies and adults than you’d expect, as well.
Now, let’s talk about Captain Hook. Jude Law was acting so hard in this film. While he had his moments, he seemed out of place when the rest of the film refused to hit his level. It’s very reminiscent of that saying even if you’re right, but everyone else is wrong – then they’re right and you’re wrong. I was hoping Jim Gaffigan would bring the necessary levity that was needed desperately but was just lost in the role.
NEVER FULLY EMBRACES THE DARKNESS
Next, let’s address the overall tone of Peter Pan & Wendy. Look, I’m fine with a darker Peter Pan. I mean, let’s be honest… He’s a villain. He steals kids at night. It writes itself. But, there has to be a balance of light for this to work. Physically and visually the entire film is very dark and drab.
At first, I thought it was just going to be London because London is dark and drab. However, in a very non-Disney turn, Neverland also has the same darker tones rather than vibrant colors that set it apart from the real world that we would expect. The story is much darker in tone as well, but never so dark that it lands solidly anywhere. It’s almost like they were afraid to go all in and instead leave us in the murk. There are tons of lost plot points EVERYWHERE that are never explored or tied up.
Peter Pan and Wendy seemed like they really wanted to focus on strong female characters. However, if that was the case they wildly underused Wendy as well as Tiger Lily. The two best characters in the entire film. Instead, we get a half-done tale about Peter and Hook’s past and present relationship. If that’s the story you want to tell, TELL IT.
Ultimately, this retelling of Peter Pan brought me no happy thoughts and left me missing all the pixie dust of the other renditions out there. Go and see for yourself when Disney’s Peter Pan & Wendy hit Disney Plus on April 28, 2023!