Friday, May 17, 2013

Movie Review: Peter Pan - Return to Neverland

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Voice work and animation echo the original well
Cons: Story echoes the original too much
The Bottom Line:
Peter Pan flies again
Too similar to the first
Strictly for the kids

Needed More Than Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust

I've got to admit, I have always been curious to see Disney's Return to Never Land.  I mean, I have always loved Peter Pan.  But the story looked a little too familiar to me, so I didn't rush out to see it when it was released in the theater in 2002.  Instead, I just now got around to watching it.  It was enjoyable, but there wasn't much to make me want to see it again.

While things haven't changed in Neverland, it's been years in our world.  Wendy has grown up and has a daughter of her own.  Jane (Harriet Owen) doesn't share her mother's fantasy world, however.  As a young girl in London during World War II, she is all practicality and no fun.

But things change when she becomes the pawn in Captain Hook's (Corey Burton) latest plot to catch Peter Pan (Blayne Weaver).  Hook thinks he's kidnapped Wendy, but Peter doesn't seem to care.  He is excited to have Jane on the island.  But Jane only wants to return home.  Will she find a way?  Will Hook get his ultimate revenge on Peter Pan?

I've got to admit, my first thought when I found out about the plot was they had ripped off Hook.  And there was a bit of that here.  More than that, however, they ripped off their own version of Peter Pan.  I saw many of the scenes and plot points coming.  They tried to twist and turn them somewhat, involving other characters.  But Jane making a pack with Hook is hardly different from Tinkerbell making a pack with Hook.

And then there's the octopus.  Instead of fearing a crocodile, Hook's animal nemesis is an octopus.  With no explanation at all, this octopus also makes the same ticks and jerks that the crocodile made as well.  Of course, the croc had swallowed a clock.  Here, there's no explanation.  In fact, the octopus doesn't start behaving in that manner until he gets his first taste of Hook.

As much as I love the original, I will admit the flaws.  Here, there jealousy Peter instills in all the females is mostly played down (except for one funny exchange between Peter and Jane).  The Indians are completely absent, meaning they avoid any of the stereotypes that were so prevalent in the first film.

Most of the voice cast has the unenviable job of sounding like other actors.  They do a good job.  Occasionally, someone sounded off, but I bought most of the performances.  The worst job came from Harriet Owen's first line, which is supposed to be Wendy as a kid.  She sounds nothing like the original.  Fortunately, she only has the one line as Wendy because that might have really distracted me.

The animation was good.  They didn't go for many of the visual effects that even modern hand drawn animation uses.  Instead, they imitated the style of the original quite nicely, making it feel like a sequel to the classic.

They also managed to work a couple of the original songs into the soundtrack.  I especially enjoyed hearing the strains of "Second Star to the Right" at the beginning and the end.  Unfortunately, only one of the new songs was at all exciting or memorable.

I have a feeling that kids will enjoy this movie more than the adults.  While I personally won't go out of my way to avoid this movie in the future, I also don't plan to Return to Never Land any time soon.

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