Sony // 1991 // 144 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Jonathan Nelson (Retired) // October 2nd, 2003
What if Peter Pan grew up?
Peter Banning (Robin Williams, One Hour Photo) is a successful mergers and acquisitions lawyer with a wife, two kids, and a fear of heights. His wife's grandmother, Wendy (Maggie Smith, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) lives in London and is the real life counterpart to the Wendy depicted in the Peter Pan novel. Peter has issues with this son, Jack, who only wants to spend some time with his dad, but Peter wants nothing more than for Jack to grow up. He cares for him, but since he cannot remember his own childhood, he is unable to relate to his own son.
Granny Wendy is being honored for her work with children, so Peter and family fly to London to celebrate and for a long overdue trip. In denial about his true heritage, Peter doesn't understand that just as Wendy is the real Wendy, he is the real Peter Pan. It takes his own kids being kidnapped by his old nemesis Captain Hook for the reality of who he is to kick in, but he's a slow learner. Peter himself is then kidnapped by Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts, Full Frontal) and taken to Neverland to rescue his kids and have grand adventures again with the Lost Boys.
But in this world of pirates and lost boys, Peter has more in common with the pirates than his former playmates. Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman, Moonlight Mile) is absolutely stunned by the turn of events. His former foe almost as old as he is, and completely unable to fly for god sakes! What's the point now? Completely dismayed, he strikes a deal with Tinkerbell, that in three days the old Peter Pan will be back, and then the war to end all wars can commence, or else. In a race against time, Peter must relearn all of his lost abilities. He must fight like a fiend, fly like a falcon, and crow like a, well, a crow. If he does not succeed, Captain Hook will win, and childhood will be forgotten.
There is definitely a difference to watching Hook as a 12-year-old boy and as a full-grown adult. For starters, a lot of the magic that Spielberg injected into the film feels dulled by time, and more of a distraction than an enhancement. Things that seemed so cool as a child -- skateboard basketball, pirate baseball games, and multi-mohawked spiky red hair -- all feel tired and pointless now, mindless filler that is little more than eye candy diminishing the story. When all the distractions are eliminated from the story, the actual plot of the film is actually quite thin. But if you are young, the film is vivacious and loads of fun to watch. All the fun and games the Lost Boys play are definitely a child's dream vacation, but unless you haven't entered high school yet, you might find yourself rooting for Captain Hook this time instead of Peter, like I did.
Being re-released on the Superbit line feels a little awkward for the film. The original DVD boasted an impressive video print and a very respectable Dolby 5.1 mix to boot. The only extra features were two trailers and cast bios. Pretty skimpy for a popular movie. If I was doing a re-release, I'd do a two-disc special edition with commentary tracks, special effect breakdowns, storyboards, costuming, and all the other goodies on most two-disc releases these days.
The Superbit release just feels like a waste of effort. Yes, the video is still pristine and gorgeous to look at, with rich vibrant colors all around, free of halos, enhancement, or dirt, but the original release had that too. The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, again the same from the first release. The only benefit so far is the new DTS audio track. The DTS track is an improvement over the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, both of which are presented on the disc, and most of the complaints of the sound overpowering the dialogue are eliminated if you can support it. Good directional effects and level mixes keep the dialogue above the music without the sound effects drowning out everything. Shooting par for the course, this standard Superbit release has zero extra features, aside from the copious subtitle selection.
Aside from the improved DTS audio track, there is no real difference for the average viewer and no benefits over the original DVD. If the original release is on sale or selling cheap, you'll get just as good a buy from it than from this Superbit release. Unless you can utilize DTS, wait for the inevitable special edition to hit the shelves. A good rent for parents with young children, but not so great for trying to relive your own long past childhood. Break out the old family photo album for that.
Review content copyright © 2003 Jonathan Nelson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 144 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* DVD Verdict Review of Original Release