"Hook" is a film that many people seem to really love; really hate; or just seem to have mixed feelings about. After not seeing it for a very long time, do I think "Hook" still holds up? ON WITH THE REVIEW...
Peter Pan has now grown up after falling in love with Wendy's grand daughter Moira, and now has become a family man, with two kids. Sadly Peter becomes so wrapped with his job of being a businessman that he neglects his kids. Peter and his Family go to London to visit Moira’s Grandmother Wendy to celebrate her charity work and join her in a banquet ceremony. When Peter, his Wife, and Wendy, come back to Wendy's apartment after the ceremony, they find out that Peter's children have been kidnapped by his old nemesis Captain Hook. However, Peter has no memory of being in Neverland as boy and thinks Wendy is crazy for telling him that he's a character who he thought was fictional. Later that night, Peter is visited by Tinkerbell and Tinkerbell takes him to "Neverland" to save his children. Peter comes to face to face with arch enemy, but once Hook finds out that Peter has no memory of being in Neverland, he's disappointed, but Tinkerbell luckily convinces Hook to give her three days to get him back into shape and become the Pan that he once was. As Tinkerbell and the Lost Boy's train Peter and help him gain back his memory; Captain Hook tries to make Peter's children like him, instead of their Father.
The idea of Peter growing up seemed to be one of the many things that put people off about this film, and I can understand why. No one would ever have pictured this adventurous childish fictional character to ever grow up, and casting Robin Williams as the role of a grown up Peter for many people just didn't seem like the right casting choice, but going back to what I said before, no one could have pictured Peter as an adult, so it didn't seem to matter who got the role. Plus the whole subplot of a Father neglecting his kids to working hard to gain back their love and spend more time with them, is a cliche plot that we've seen before, as well as knowing what's going to happen. After seeing this film again, I'm not going to lie; Robin Williams' performance along with the cliche plot was actually executed really well. Ok don't me wrong, some of the things about Peter growing up could have been done a little bit better. Like the flashback sequence that Peter has about his origins and reasons of why he decided to grow-up felt rushed, and needed to be examined and explained a little bit more than what we were given; and the whole plot of Peter neglecting his children while I think is done for the most part well, it has a few moments that get corny (I'll point them out later). Also when he becomes the wise cracking Peter Pan, he's not really as funny as he usually is. With all that aside, I still think this is one of Williams’ best performances. Maybe not top 5, but definitely better than most of his other films.
As for the transformation of Peter becoming his old childish self again, it’s also done really well. Like I said before, when we see Peter as an adult, we'd never suspect him to ever go back to the boy that he once was. I think my favorite moment that shows that, which is one of my favorite scenes in the film is when Peter walks up these darkly lit stairs as we hear the sound of the wind and the enters the nursery. As he looks around the room and gazes at the mural of Neverland; through the sound effects, music, and reactions, his memories of being in Neverland start to slowly come back to him, however, he quickly denies any of those thoughts and is probably too afraid to confront them, and closes the window due to his fear of heights. This is a scene with no dialogue at all, but through the acting, visuals, and atmosphere, it says a lot. The scene that made me see the Peter within him and made me think that Williams was a good casting choice is the scene when one of the Lost Boy's tries to see his resemblance to the Peter he knew. Yeah, it gets corny at points with some of the acting, but the music and lack of dialogue as the boy sees the Peter within him is what makes the scene touching; and yes, I'm one of those people who was moved by the line when the kid discovered that he really was Peter. If you find it corny, I can understand why, but for me it does touch me. As I said earlier about the scene when Peter denied his thoughts of being Peter Pan when his nostalgia seemed to catch up on him; when he does reach out to his nostalgia, as horribly rushed as the back story is, I did begin to see the Pan inside him letting out, and once he finally became Pan, he actually did bring the spirit and energy of the Pan we know. Again, it's not all that funny, and more childish than most likely any other version of the character but the spirit and heart of the character is definitely there. So yeah, as odd as it was seeing Peter growing up and how odd it seemed casting Williams in the role, it's actually done extremely well, at least for my taste.
When we finally do see Dustin Hoffman as Hook, he completely steals every scene that he's in. He's villainous, he's fun, he's at times funny, very classy and respectable, very intimidating, and very persuasive as well. Dustin Hoffman really captured the feel and tone of the villain so well, that I couldn't believe that it was him. I mean this is the guy who was seduced by Mel Brooks's wife in "The Graduate"; this is the guy who was tortured by Lawrence Olivier in "Marathon Man"; this is the guy who dressed in drag in "Tootsie"; and to see him play such a elegant and yet villainous character, he does it so well that I keep forgetting that it was him. It really shows (Along with the other films that I’ve mentioned) how great of an actor he truly is! There are so many great scenes with him that I simply can't point them all out. I guess my favorite intimidating scene of his sadistic nature is when he sends a pirate to be killed; and my favorite funny moment is when he tries to commit suicide as he keeps telling Smee not to stop him. Not only is he made to be villainous, but he actually gets one or two emotional moments in the film. At one point in the movie we get a forced musical scene to be whimsical and touching, and it did touch me but not for the reasons you think it did. It's not because of the song (Though it is a pretty cute song, but in all honesty sounds way better off as an instrumental piece); it's not because of Peter's son's thinking of his Mom as Smee and Hook brainwash him; it's not because of the pirates being touched by it (Though it is a clever nod to a scene in the Disney movie); it's really because of Hook's reaction. As he stands there looking badass as he smokes his Double-Cigar-Holder; he starts to listen to the song out of curiosity, and when the song is over, he starts to weep a little bit because of not having a Mother or maybe even missing his Mother, but quickly collects himself and goes back to his old villainous self. That expression was done so natural and effectively that for me it’s what made the scene, and if you're one of those people who find it corny, it's understandable. Dustin Hoffman completely owns the role and is once again a rare performance where I completely forget about the actor that's playing the character.
Now we move onto the performance that many people hate in this movie and that's Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell. While I don't think she gave a bad performance, her performance is nothing like the character. It's not because Tinkerbell talks when in many other versions she doesn't (Though that doesn't help much either), it's mainly because she's always acting sweet and innocent. Even when she acts tough, she's still freaking adorable, and that's the problem she's not supposed to be all that cutesy. Now I honestly wouldn't mind her performance so much if Spielberg had done the original story, while making her talk. I know it differs from the original story, but in the Disney cartoon, Captain Hook while being intimidating and classy at times, he differed from the original character as well, even going as far as ignoring good form which is completely out of character! However, for the most of us, we still admired the villain not just because they kept the class and sadistic nature of the character, but he was also a lot of fun to watch, and the voice acting from Hans Conried is was what really made this villain such a joy. Since this film is a sequel to the Pan story that we're all familiar with, making Tinkerbell cute seemed very out of character because in the story she was very tough and extremely jealous. Hell, SHE EVEN TRIED TO KILL WENDY, REMEMBER?! Don't get me wrong, she has her cute moments as well in the story, but this film over does that aspect. I will admit though, I don't blame Roberts as much as I blame Spielberg's direction and the people who wrote this film, because after all this is how the character was written and directed. I also remember hearing my favorite critic Doug Walker, point out how strong Tinkerbell is in this movie, who's so strong that she could have easily saved the children. While I guess that's a bit of a plot hole, I don't mind it because we wouldn't have a movie, and also this is Peter's personal battle between him and Hook, not Tinkerbell's battle. Also the scene when she fights the pirates, always gets me laughing. For me, the scene that I didn't like at all that involved Tinkerbell was when she suddenly grows big so she can kiss Peter because she wished for it, and then suddenly goes back to being small again. I know what the scene was supposed to represent, but that scene just comes out of nowhere; feels very, very forced in; it doesn't feel romantic; and just ends with no mention of it ever again. So while I don't hate Roberts' performance as Tinkerbell, I do think that Spielberg should have done a better job with the character.
Moving on to the supporting characters, let’s start with the people that Peter knows in the real world. An elderly Wendy is played by Maggie Smith, and she does a wonderful and haunting job at capturing the spirit of the character Wendy. You really get the feeling that she is the character. How she recites the lines that she said to Peter when she was young, and tells the children stories, is incredible and again, I really did see Maggie Smith as the character. Her performance is definitely up there with Williams and Hoffman’s performance. Caroline Goodall as Peter's wife is (As you may have guessed) the Mrs. Darling of the movie as she thinks that her husband should spend time with his kids, and plays along with the stuff that she knows is not true to help them enjoy their youth; and despite being a different character, she does carry out the Mrs.Darling characteristics, while still standing out as her own character. That speech that she gives to Peter about spending time with his kids really touched me and didn't seem forced or preachy. As for Peter's kids played by Charlie Korsmo and Amber Scott, their acting and character are pretty decent, however, I will admit, Korsmo as the son Jack seemed to have more of a plot and character, as well as being better acted than Scott. Scott as Maggie isn't bad, she does have some good scenes and does make the character likable instead of just overly cutesy, but Korsmo just seemed to sound more experienced since he was already in films like "Dick Tracy" and "What About Bob?". Also his character had more of a story since he's with Hook throughout the film, while Maggie is taken away from Jack and is in a place where they keep the Lost Boy's that they capture, which is shown very briefly. Wouldn't it be nice to see Maggie take care of the captured Lost Boys and become a Motherly figure to them like Wendy was, that would have been both a great nod to the story, as well as giving the character more screen-time than she's given. Don't get me wrong, Korsmo acting can be hokey at times too, but he for the most part does give a really good performance. The last two supporting characters we meet outside of Neverland is Wendy's housekeeper Liza played by Laurel Cronin, and one of Wendy's oldest orphans Tootles played by Arthur Malet, and while these characters can be very hysterical and out of their minds, there's still a strong humbleness and likability to them, especially from Tootles.
The Lost Boy's in the film is a hit and miss for many. Half of the time they'll give a good and fun performance, while at other times they poorly deliver their lines or speed up their delivery to the point where you can't understand a word they’re saying; and even on many occasions surrender to the forced whimsical corniness of the film. That scene when they tell Peter that they believe in him, man that was too corny and overly whimsical. Again, they're not that bad of actors since they do bring the fun, spirit, and likability of those characters, but just the same, their performance throughout the film are hit and miss. While I do like characters like Thud Butt, Too Small, Pockets, and those twins that say nothing but are very fun to watch; the best character in my opinion goes to new leading Lost Boy Rufio played by Dante Basco. If Peter Pan was ever going to verse a future and modern version of himself, this is the guy. This guy is a stunt performing badass with a cocky personality while also carrying an insulting sense of humor, who also manages to fight like a warrior. God is he awesome! I think the best scene with Peter, Rufio, and the Lost Boys that also manages to beautifully capture one of the elements taken from the book is the imaginary dinner scene, and without giving anything away, it's one of the highlights of the movie, and the food that they eat whether it's fake or not, it still looks really good. A criticism that I hear people talk about is why the Lost Boy's hide-out has some modern day stuff like skateboards, graffiti, a basketball hoop, and even a ramp that goes around the place. As a kid, I thought it was cool, and even now I think it's pretty cool, but at the same time even as a kid, I did find it a bit out of place. However, I finally had a thought of probably why Spielberg made this choice, and I think it had to do with the character Rufio. I always thought that Rufio was a teenager who was a runaway with no family but was very skilled with a lot of things, and wishing that he was away from the real world and didn't have to grow up. Tinkerbell meets him and understands what he wants and takes him to Neverland to be the new leader since he reminds her of the way Peter was; and the reason why we see all this modern stuff is because Rufio introduced the Lost Boys to those things since he was from a modern era. Ok, the film doesn't at all state that, in fact, it could have easily just have been a lazy way for the film to appeal to kids, which for some if not many, becomes just as stupid and out of nowhere as the a few of the scenes that I mentioned in the review, but I can't help but not think of this theory. Look at Rufio's punk personality; look at his hair; look at the things he does; he seems more like a kid from at least the mid or early 80s, instead of a Lost Boy who's been around when Peter left them. Even Peter was taken to Neverland by Tinkerbell, so I can't see why Rufio wouldn't be an exception and since the pirates were taking over Neverland, while kidnapping and killing Lost Boys, I wouldn't be surprised if Tink went out looking for some kind of help without interfering with Peter's new life. However, this is just a theory, not an actual claim that Spielberg made, and maybe it was just as poor of a choice as some of the choices in this movie, but for me that's what I personally get from it.
Hook's assistant Smee played by Bob Hoskins is just as funny and loyal as the character that we know and love. While Hoskin's shows off the character's intelligence, he does get a handful of funny scenes, which I won't spoil for you. All I'll say is, his reactions are at times priceless; the lines he's given are funny; and the chemistry between him and Hoffman is great, enough said. As for the rest of Hook's pirate crew, instead of Hook and his pirates being on a ship, they get a whole freaking town, along with Hook's ship, and man is it awesome! Just watching how they live and act, is really fun and creative to watch. I even love how Hook manages to organize a Baseball game for Jack in just one day complete with uniforms and sports equipment; and I know some people might call BULL on that, but for me, it's one of those things that I don't mind suspending my disbelief for to enjoy it. I think the thing that might turn people off by the idea is that there was no Pirates town in the story or in any other adaptations, but just like how I feel about the Lost Boy's hang-out, I can't help but feel that there was a reason behind it. Since Peter was gone and the Lost Boy's are now weak without Peter, Hook decided to turn a piece of Neverland into a town not only for him to rule, but also for Pirates that visit or pass up Neverland to settle down (Like how Hook got to Neverland) as well as wanting to help out the great and legendary Captain Hook. Another issue that I hear people complain about is how Hook knew about Peter neglecting his kids, and how Smee got his medical records. In theory, I always thought it was Smee, and a couple of Hook's pirates who were spying on him to give information to Hook that might seem important, and I'm willing to bet that Smee somehow stole a copy of his medical records as he was in the real world. Now when did Hook decide to organize this? I think he started to organize it when one of his spies who kept an eye on Wendy incase if Peter ever came back, heard about Peter coming to England and reported to Hook so they can spring a trap, while also finding his whereabouts. The reason why I believe in that is because we find out through Maggie that there was a creepy window washer that probably stole Jack's baseball, and later on Hook actually has his Baseball. We even see a cameo of a janitor played also by Hoskin's who looks and acts exactly like Smee. I can't help but think that those two moments are the evidence of how Hook knows and has the things that we question about. Now how did Smee exactly steal those medical records; or how can the Pirates travel back and fourth from Neverland; well, those are sadly the plot holes in my theory and personal interpretation.
One of the things I like about the film, is how it looks. If Spielberg was making this film in today's standards, Neverland would be all computerized, however, since CGI wasn't perfected yet, he decided to use large sets and Matte Paintings to create Neverland, and I think it looks great and does capture the look and feel of Neverland. However, I must say I was really disappointed that we don't see that much of Neverland, even as a kid. All we see really is the Pirate village; Captain Hook's ship; and the Lost Boy's hang-out, that's it. We don't see Skull Rock; we don't see where the Indians live, nor do we see them in general or Tiger Lilly for that matter (And I seriously doubt that those boy's with feathers on their heads are Indians); and while we see Mermaids in one scene, we never see the Lagoon where they hang out at. I do like what we do see, and I honestly don't care if the sets look like a set or an amusement park, because I think they fit this fictional world fine; but I hate how limited we are when it comes to exploring this gigantic Island. What I also admire about the film's look is how it captures London, after being in a typical early 90's American setting. I like that we're mostly in London at night as we see the snow fall; and in every single room we're in, the lights are dimly lit, giving it a very haunting atmosphere. The effects still hold up really well. The scenes whenever Peter is flying; or whenever Tinkerbell is interacting with Peter, who of course is gigantic, as well as having sets that are up to scale with Tinkerbell's size are really cool to look at! The score by John Williams fits with the film perfectly. It really does make the film seem gigantic. The scene when Peter travels to Neverland, as the film's theme song plays; listening to the music on its own, I can literally picture myself flying off to Neverland. While the film does have corny moments due to the writing and acting, without Williams music, half the emotion that I get from the film, I honestly would never have felt them. Though the actors on many times do carry out the emotion, I do get the feeling that the music plays a huge part in the emotions that people who love this film get from the movie. It can get corny at points, but for the most part, it's done quite effectively. I also surprisingly still enjoy the music for when Peter misses Jack's game which people find to be cheesy. I can understand why, but I think that was the point. The film wanted the Banning family to start out as the typical early 90's family, and the music while capturing that intentional cheesy outlook of how Americanized Peter is along with his family; it does bring the fun of being a kid playing a sport; it captures that corporate vibe of Peter's love for his job; and it ends with a disappointing feeling of Peter missing his son's game, before it goes back to sounding corporate again when Peter's phone rings. It's really one of my favorite scores by John Williams that manages to big, epic, humorous, adventurous, emotional and magical, as well as giving the film a wonderful atmosphere. As for the nods, homages, and references to the Peter Pan books, play; and even the Disney cartoon, there are so many of them in this film, that I dare not point them out. The film also has some celebrity cameos, and in all honesty, they don't feel forced in, the cameos does flow with the film's narrative. Hell, I couldn't even recognize half of them. Who exactly appears in the film as cameos, you'll have to find out for yourself.
Finally, we go to the film's climactic battle and I'm one of those people who actually enjoys it. I know it wasn't the final battle that people hoped to see since it's really over the top and humorous, instead of being violent and action packed, but remember this is a family film and we're not going to see dozens of children get slaughtered by Pirates, and in kid's film standards it's really great. Ok, yeah, it does get corny at points, it doesn't fit the tone of the film, and Hook's defeat was extremely anti-climatic and made no sense, but it's still a good climax. Considering the climaxes that we've had in previous Pan film's before this film, this is the best one (I'm not going with all time since I haven't seen the 2003 reboot since it first came out). I do enjoy the climax in the Disney cartoon, but this climax manages to be funny, creative, epic, violent, and even has one or two touching moments; while the climax in the Disney cartoon was just Pan and Hook fighting, while the Lost Boys climb up to the crows-nest and fire their weapons at the pirates, which is fun and exciting, but not as fun and exciting as this climax!
So that's my review on "Hook" and despite being a mixed bag of a film, I still love it. I'm not saying the film is for everyone because it does have things that will turn them off, such as the cliche plot; the goofy and corny moments; the changes and limitations to Neverland; Peter growing up; Tinkerbell being all cutesy; and stuff that don't make a whole lot of sense, or hardly having any sense at all. For me personally, I think most of the stuff that I mentioned is done well enough. The plot of Peter growing up and not spending time with his kids is well written and fits in with the world of Pan perfectly; there are plenty of goofy and comical moments that do manage to bring a good laugh; Neverland may be limited, but the things we do see of Neverland, does bring the feeling and look of this magical island; half of those moments that people find corny, actually does get to me on many occasions; and while there are things that don't make sense, I like that the film does leave a few things that are left to the viewer's interpretation. I also really love the performances from Williams; Smith; Hoskins; Basco; and especially Hoffman! I even admire the visuals; the effects; the music; the references to the Peter Pan universe; and the battle at the end even if it is a little too silly. However, like I said, there are things that turn me off about the film as well, such as making Tinkerbell all cutesy; some of the things that happen in the film (As I already stated) don't make any sense; some of the acting can at times be very corny and hokey, along with some of the forced whimsical moments; and Peter's back story just felt really rushed. So overall, I consider this film to be a love or hate film, and for those who haven't seen it yet (Especially Peter Pan fans), definitely give it a look to see if this is a film that you find yourself loving, hating, or having mixed thoughts about.