Peter Pan character, a mischievous boy who never grows up, causing mischief and enjoying himself wherever he goes. What if Peter did grow up though, forgetting about what he used to be? So goes 1991's Hook.
A ruthless businessman who can scoop up struggling businesses effortlessly, Peter Banning (Robin Williams) takes his wife and kids, Jack (Charlie Korsmo) and Maggie (Amber Scott), to visit his grandmother, Wendy (Maggie Smith), in London. Obsessed with a merger, Peter has lost touch with his family, and one night, they're mysteriously taken from Wendy's home, an ominous note from a JAS Hook left on their bedroom door. It defies a 'Peter Pan' to come back to Neverland and rescue his children. Peter has no idea what to make of it until Maggie reveals a secret; Peter is in fact Peter Pan all grown up, his "childhood" lost since forgotten when he chose to grow up. How can he get his kids back? By embracing who he used to be, visiting Neverland and tangling with the nasty Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman).
As a literary character, Peter Pan first appeared in author J.M. Barrie's 1902 book The Little White Bird. Peter would appear in several other Barrie books and since then has become an instantly recognizable literary character from books and plays to stage plays and feature films, even the iconic Disney classic from 1953. It is a character most kids are aware of at least a little, and there is a charm to the boy who refuses to grow up. A story delving into a 'what if?' about said character is an interesting, unique idea. Peter decided to grow up when he fell in love with his future wife, Moira (Caroline Goodall). And what if a full-grown Peter doesn't remember his past life as the infamous Peter Pan? Well, away we go.
I watched the movie and enjoyed it only to get a rather large surprise as the credits rolled. Directed by.....Steven Spielberg?!? I couldn't and didn't believe it. Not one of Spielberg's best films, Hook is nonetheless a good film. What struck me most was the distinct look of the film, giving an appearance of almost being based on a stage. The sets are all clearly indoors -- especially the outdoor ones on Neverland and on Hook's ship -- but they're busy, cluttered and claustrophobic. There's always lots of action and movement around, filling the screen to the point it looks like it may burst. John Williams' score is okay if not particularly memorable, never rising above the action on-screen.
What I liked most though was the casting, almost from top to bottom. Who better than to play wild man-child Peter Pan than ultra-goofy Robin Williams? He brings the character to life; a business suit executive who can't be bothered with anything fun. Then, he starts to remember what he used to be and watch out! Let the fireworks ensue. Hoffman is a scene-stealer as Capt. Hook, the infamous pirate leader with a hook for a hand after a crocodile bit his hand off. Julia Roberts plays Tinkerbell, the tiniest of fairies who guides Peter on his rediscovery of who he is. Bob Hoskins too is very good as Smee, Hook's right hand man. Of Peter's Lost Boys, the ones that stand out the most are Dante Brasco as Rufio, the new leader of the Boys, and Raushan Hammond as Thud Butt, the rather....round, jovial Lost Boy. Even look for singer Phil Collins in a small part and Gwyneth Paltrow as a young Wendy in a flashback.
Far from perfect, the movie does have its flaws. At 144 minutes, it's far too long. Here's my issue. The movie never really slows down from its London intro to the majority of the time being spent on Neverland. It isn't really the pacing's fault, but the movie feels incredibly long at times. Some scenes go on for too long without knowing where to cut it off. As well, the use of some computer generated images looks dated now some 20-plus years later. Hard to criticize it too much, but it's certainly noticeable. Still, it's an entertaining story with an iconic character, an interesting visual look, and a deep cast.
Hook <---trailer (1991): ** 1/2 /****