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  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes
  • Alternate ending
  • 17 Short film

Peter Pan (2003)

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 113 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If you have children of any age above seven or eight, or if you are yourself still a child, do yourself a favour. Beg or borrow this Peter Pan.

This 2003 live-action movie from Australian director P.J. Hogan (Muriel's Wedding) not only beats the 1953 Disney cartoon into a cocked hat, but instantly becomes a children's classic movie. I'd put it on par with such classics as The Secret Garden in the versions by directors Agnieszka Holland (1993) and Fred Wilcox (1949), the Disney/Hayley Mills movies Pollyanna and The Parent Trap, as well as the pirate saga Treasure Island. There are a few other titles which should go into this grouping, but that's just to give you an idea of how highly I regard this Peter Pan.

This is a children's movie for adults. It's very true to the original J.M. Barrie tale about the boy who refused to grow up. And while children will revel in its lyrical beauty and bloodthirsty adventure, there are some darker psychological levels which only adults will be able to really draw out - which is just as well for the children...

The film is stunningly photographed. I've seen it on the big-screen as well as on DVD, and somehow the careful framing of each scene becomes more apparent on DVD - we're able to fully appreciate just how carefully each scene is visually composed and balanced.

The combination of live-action and computer-generated imagery (CGI) gives it a fairy-tale appearance, especially in the scenes where the Darling children learn how to fly, and are seen soaring through the cloud-wrapped skies over London. It's just totally luscious.

Great casting really brings the Peter Pan tale to life. Jason Isaacs plays a double role, as the young Darling children's father, and as the villainous Captain Hook. He plays Hook in a larger-than-life way reminiscent of Kevin Kline in the movie version of The Pirates of Penzance.

The Darling mother is played with sweet sincerity by Olivia Williams, who you might remember as Jane Fairfax in the 1997 television adaptation (the best to date) of Jane Austen's Emma.

Richard (The Good Life) Briers plays Hook's deputy Smee with kindly cruelty, and you'll enjoy sighting Bruce Spence as the sailor Cookson.

But the film belongs to the children, led by a boisterous Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan, and the very pretty Rachel Hurd-Wood as Wendy (a name which J.M. Barrie in fact invented).

Apart from Jeremy Sumpter's Peter Pan, all the children and adults speak in totally appropriate English accents for this very English story. Jeremy is American. And this isn't a problem in the movie - the difference in fact seems to add to his other-world quality. It's hard to imagine a more perfect Peter Pan, with his lithe athleticism and irrepressible cheekiness.

Tinker-Bell (Tinks to her friends) is inspired casting. She is played by the French actress Ludivine Sagnier, who is wearing a bit more clothing than in The Swimming Pool, but is equally unpredictable and delectable. She is the consummate meeting-point between live-action and CGI, as she flies around trailing her clouds of fairy dust. And, true to the original story, this is no lovey-dovey soppy fairy. In fact, this fairy is a right bitch.

Peter Pan was only a modest success at the box-office. I predict it will have a long and forever-young life on DVD.

  Video
Contract

This anamorphic transfer is every bit the equal of its large-screen presentation. Details are crisp, colours are beautifully saturated without bleeding, and contrasts are strong and detailed.

It is a quality presentation that does total justice to a movie which is full of visual wonder.

  Audio
Contract

We have a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1.

Using my Pioneer 655A player, I found that you could not switch between these two options during play; your choice had to be selected before the start of the program.

Both tracks featured wonderful effects, with good use of surround. It's a punchy soundtrack with great atmospherics and depth, but with constant clarity of dialogue. The Dolby Digital soundtrack has the greatest oomph and warmth, but the DTS wins with a silkier, slightly softer sound that seems somehow more transparent.

  Extras
Contract

The extra features are arranged in five volumes, each with several chapters or short films: Black Castle, with three chapters, and Home Underground, Neverland Forest, Darling House and Pirate's Ship, each with four.

The most interesting features are Learning to Fly, a six-minute short film found inside Black Castle, detailing the vigorous training the children, in particular Peter Pan, had to undergo to be able to fly realistically in the film, and a 'Tinker Bell' chapter in Neverland Forest, which gives some very thorough background on the synthesis of live-action and computer-generated imagery.

The most boring feature? It's The Story of Pan, an 11-minute featurette about the genesis of the Peter Pan story and about this film project, hosted by... wait for it... Sarah Ferguson. How did the Royal Tractor get involved in this movie? This is rent-a-celebrity run riot!

We find inside Darling House a very soppy alternate ending, which fortunately wasn't used (even though it was true to J.M. Barrie's original ending), and we also find here the only deleted scene, showing the Darling children's father in the doghouse - again, no loss to the movie at all.

There are 17 short films in all, excluding the alternate ending and deleted scene. They're quite a bit repetitive, and one decent one-hour 'making of' documentary would have served the same purpose to better effect. Young children will find trekking through them all quite fun. Older children, us included, will find it all just a bit too tedious.

  Overall  
Contract

If you love great children's movies, then you'll love this Peter Pan. It's an instant classic, which will help you grow just a bit younger with every passing year.


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      And I quote...
    "This is not only the best screen realisation yet of the Peter Pan story, but is instantly an all-time classic children's movie."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Panasonic A330
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
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