Cert – PG/ Recommended for ages 6+, Run-time – 1 hour 46 minutes, Director – David Lowery
Soon to be sent to boarding school Wendy (Ever Anderson) fears that she’s growing up, only to be flown, via the magic of pixie dust, to Neverland where Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) takes on anyone who grows up, especially pirate Captain Hook (Jude Law).
David Lowery’s 2016 take on Pete’s Dragon is perhaps the best Disney live-action remake to date. Perhaps it’s because with lesser-seen initial material there was more opportunity to take it in a different direction and do something more fresh than with other features – particularly those inside Disney’s ‘Animated Classics’/ Walt Disney Animation Studios branch and label. Returning with another adaptation in the form of Peter Pan And Wendy Lowery’s fingerprints are very much over the directorial and visual style of the film. There’s a personality to it that comes through a number of times in the generally contained narrative.
Where Lowery’s identity comes through less is in those moments where it feels as if the Disney reins are being pulled in. Not so much as with Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin (where you could feel Ritchie wanting to make a darker film than Disney would allow) but still enough to make something of a clear alternation between director and studio every now and then. Perhaps this is less down to the studio and more down to the fact that there’s a strong familiarity with the story, or in this case rather idea, of Peter Pan meaning that there’s a feeling of safety within the events. While there may be some new interpretations and directions (again, the way the narrative is contained and goes from one event to the next is well-handled and the general flow is effective) as a whole it still has many of the standard, recognisable elements of a story about the boy who never grew up.
However, this, as the title so clearly states, isn’t just the story of Peter Pan. This is Peter Pan and Wendy. Wendy Darling (Ever Anderson) is the push of the film as she fears growing up due to the looming presence of boarding school. On hearing her worries Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) flies in through the window and takes her and her two brothers, John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe), via the magic of pixie dust (Yara Shahidi is on likable Tinker Bell duty) on a flight to Neverland.
While not always dealing with it there is a more upfront dealing with the idea of growing up here than in other adaptations of this story. Pan doesn’t entirely fear or worry about the prospect, but certainly takes against anyone who dares to do so, especially pirate Captain Hook (Jude Law seemingly having a good time hamming it up as the villain). Whilst surrounded by a world of semi-imagination and the idea of clinging onto childhood ideas – particularly when with the Lost Boys – Wendy herself confronts whether she has already grown up, and what points of childhood she can cling on to (is it really all that bad?).
There are some nice ideas which don’t always entirely come through, largely as we jump back to the pirates and what they’re up to before Pan and co come back in to save the day (with Peter himself not feeling overly present for good chunks of the film’s run-time). These ideas, and indeed simply some of the camerawork and capturing the landscape, are where Lowery (alongside co-writer Toby Halbrooks) shows his style the most and brings an identity to this particular Disney ‘reimagining’ that isn’t as present in many of the others (even if they have turned out to be good). Yet, the familiarity with a number of the key ideas, and the occasional feeling of the, albeit not-as-tightly-held, Disney reins being pulled in dampen the proceedings stopping the film from ever truly taking flight in its world of not growing up and imagination.
David Lowery’s visual style and directorial flair help to bring a feeling of personality to Peter Pan And Wendy, helping to occasionally push the conflicted feelings of not growing up within the latter’s mind. However, a mix of familiarity with the key elements and the feeling of some studio notes or influence cause some points to never truly be given the time they need.