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Robin Williams as Peter Pan and Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook
What if Peter Pan grew up and became a man?!
‘Hook’ is a 1991 film directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars Robin Williams as Peter Pan; Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook; Julie Roberts as Tinker Bell and Bob Hoskins as Smee. This is a classic film based on the works of ‘Peter Pan’ by J.M. Barrie. My parents love ‘Hook’! I have a soft spot for it too!
My first encounter with ‘Peter Pan’ was the 1953 Disney film, which was also a favourite of my sister Bethan before she died. So it was interesting to come across this live-action film based on the story of ‘Peter Pan’ that I knew about and loved in my early days of childhood. And I’m glad I saw it!
The movie was nominated for five Academy Awards and it is good it did. My Dad purchased ‘Hook’ on VHS long ago when I was a kid in the 1990s. I imagine it was probably a bit scary for me when I saw it as a kid, especially at the beginning. But nowadays this is received as harmless entertainment.
The film also features an interesting concept. It sees Peter Pan grown up as a normal married man and returning to Neverland to save his own children. But on his return, he has to remember being the boy he once was that could fly and can do battle with Captain Hook. Will Peter be able to achieve that?
This was the best live-action film of a ‘Peter Pan’ story at the time in the 1990s. That was before the 2003 film of ‘Peter Pan’ came out. But does that mean that ‘Hook’ deserves to get its praise and approval without pointing out some of its flaws? In this review by me, I’ll endeavour to do just that.
The film first takes place in San Francisco. It features Robin Williams as Peter Banning (or as we’ll later discover: Peter Pan!) Peter is a successful lawyer and a workaholic, who spends little time with his wife Moira and his children Jack and Maggie. He even misses Jack’s baseball game in the movie.
Peter’s family eventually go to London where they visit Moira’s grandmother, Wendy Darling. Now this is where it’s gets a little puzzling. Wendy happens to be the creator of the ‘Peter Pan’ stories in fiction. Yeah! The ‘Peter Pan’ stories are fiction in a world where an adult Peter is seen to be real in the film.
The film even begins with Peter Banning’s daughter, Maggie, playing the role of Wendy in a ‘Peter Pan’ play in San Francisco. Even Peter Banning is watching the play himself with his wife Moira and his son Jack. This will all be explained later on as to how Peter came to be an adult married man.
I discovered that Wendy Darling had ‘Peter Pan’s stories transcribed by her childhood neighbour J.M. Barrie. This begs the question, why didn’t J.M. Barrie make an appearance in the movie? It would have been so intriguing to see J.M. Barrie in the movie. Although he did die in 1937, so there!
There are even scenes where Peter, Moira and Wendy attend a charity dinner function for the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. The Great Ormond Street Hospital is where the copyright of the ‘Peter Pan’ stories is donated to by J.M. Barrie in 1929. It’s good the hospital’s mentioned in this film.
Whilst Peter, Moira and Wendy attend the charity dinner, Wendy’s house gets ransacked and Peter and Moira’s children, Jack and Maggie, are abducted. Who abducted them? Captain Hook of course! There’s even a ransom note left by Captain Hook on Peter, Moira and Wendy’s return to the house.
At a loss on where to find the children, Peter is soon told by Wendy that the ‘Peter Pan’ stories were true and that he is Pan himself. This Peter doesn’t believe as he’s lost his childhood memories. Very soon, he gets a visit from Tinker Bell who soon takes him away to Neverland and rescue his children.
Robin Williams stars as Peter Banning/Peter Pan. Peter starts as a work-obsessed married man who spends little time with his family. His relationship with Jack gets strained, especially after he misses his baseball match. He even yells angrily at his two kids when they’re playing during his phone calls.
After his children get abducted and he gets carried away in a blanket by Tinker Bell to Neverland, Peter goes on a journey to remember the boy he was. It’s a hard-going, surreal struggle of a journey for Peter. But he does it in order to rescue his children and he has Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys to help him.
I enjoyed Robin Williams’ performance as Peter Pan in the movie. It’s interesting how Peter Pan is depicted as a grown-up married man and Robin Williams does it well in spades. When Peter does become the flying boy he was again, Robin Williams isn’t over-the-top as he makes it so believable.
But the main star of this movie is Hook himself! Dustin Hoffman stars as Hook and delivers a brilliant performance. I liked the combination of menace and charm in Dustin Hoffman’s performance. It’s not over-the-top; he’s funny and his familiar wig; hook and costume does make him believable as Hook.
In the film, Hook is astonished that Peter Pan is grown-up. Although should he be that surprised, considering he kidnapped Peter’s kids? Hook also attempts to win his children over and make them love his father less and less. This he manages to achieve with Jack and dresses him up to be like him.
There’s something interesting about Hook’s character in this movie. Somehow he’s able to know a lot about Peter’s children and about their anxieties with their dad. He uses them to make them love their dad less and less. I know it’s make-belief, but how did Hook achieve this? Is he a mind-reader?
Julia Roberts stars as Tinker Bell, Peter Pan’s long-time fairy friend. I like Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell. She comes across as cheeky and playful. She clearly loves Peter and helps him in rescuing his two children when they’re captured by Hook. She’s also pretty strong-spirited and even faces Hook off.
But there’s something about Tinker Bell that doesn’t make sense. How can she talk?! In the Disney films of ‘Peter Pan’ and the 2003 live-action film, Tinker Bell never talked. So it’s interesting Tinker Bell should be talking here. Did she learn how to talk in the time Peter was absent from Neverland?
Tinker Bell can also change her clothes as she wears a pretty blue dress to impress Peter. She even grows to full size in front of Peter after feeling a big emotional moment. There’s a sweet moment when Tinker Bell gives Peter a proper ‘kiss’ and tells him she loves him, despite him married to Moira.
Bob Hoskins stars as Mr. Smee, Captain Hook’s right-hand man aboard the Jolly Roger. Bob Hoskins is great as Smee in this movie. He’s very down-to-earth and fiercely loyal to Captain Hook. He also has this sense of humour that shines through as well him being able to read Peter’s medical records.
There’s a scene between Smee and Hook that I enjoy watching from this movie. It’s when Hook is about to shoot himself in the head and eventually tells Smee to stop him. Smee does so, even though he was told not to. It’s so well played out between the two actors during this amazing scene.
I also liked it when Smee encourages Hook not to kill himself by asking him “What would the world be like without Captain Hook?” Smee even gets to take part in a baseball game for Jack when Hook tries to make him like him. Bob Hoskins was good in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and is great as Smee here.
Maggie Smith also stars as Wendy Darling in this movie. It was unusual and interesting to see Wendy as an older woman whom Peter revisited at her home in London. Maggie is good as Wendy as she delivers a sense of wisdom, especially when she confesses the ‘Peter Pan’ stories were real to Peter.
It was also interesting to see the history between Peter and Wendy, as Peter re-lives his memories to Tinker Bell. By the time Peter visited Wendy as Maggie Smith; she was too old and unable to fly. I do like how the movie highlights that Wendy has done a lot of work in looking after the orphans in London.
The film also features Charlie Korsmo as Jack and Amber Scott as Maggie, Peter’s two children. There’s also Caroline Goodall as Moira Banning, Peter’s wife…wait a minute! Caroline Goodall! Where have I heard that name? WOW! She was in ‘The Moon Stallion’ with Sarah Sutton! Amazing!
And I’m not kidding on this! Gwyneth Paltrow stars as young Wendy Darling in this movie. Gwyneth Paltrow! WOW! This was before her fame in the ‘MCU’ movies, isn’t it? There’s also Laurel Cronin as Liza, Wendy’s maid, who I’ve seen before in another kids’ film ‘Beethoven’ with the dog! 😀
There’s also…Phil Collins as Inspector Good, a British police detective. Yeah! I’m finding it very hard to imagine Phil Collins as an actor as opposed to a singer in this. There’s also Arthur Malet as Tootles, one of the former Lost Boys now grown-up in Wendy’s house. Tootles has lost his marbles (literally)!
There’s also the Lost Boys led by Dante Basco as Rufio. Rufio is a sort of push-over leader, especially when he doesn’t believe Robin Williams’ Peter Pan is the same boy now grown-up. Rufio has Peter Pan’s sword and hurls insults at him especially when having dinner. Peter gets his own back though.
The other Lost Boys include Isaiah Robinson as Pockets; Jasen Fisher as Ace; Raushan Hammond as Thud Butt; James Madio as Don’t Ask (no really, that’s his name); Alex Zuckerman as Latchboy and Ahmad Stoner as No Nap. All these Lost Boys help Peter in his fight to defeat Hook and save his kids.
There’s even a…cameo appearance of ‘Star Wars’ creator George Lucas and Princess Leia actress Carrie Fisher?! No, I’m serious here! Did I miss something?! These two play a kissing couple on a bridge before they get sprinkled with pixie dust by Tinker Bell whilst carrying Peter off to Neverland!
Um…George Lucas and Carrie Fisher kissing each other?!
(Moment of awkward silence)
I’m not going to speculate too much on that!
I really enjoyed the climatic sword fight between Robin Williams’ Peter Pan and Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook at the end of the film. It gets tense and exciting when the two fight it out with each other. This also feels pretty awe-inspiring when you see a grown-up Peter Pan fighting Captain Hook.
The music for this film is composed by John Williams. Yes! This is the film music composer of many franchises including the original ‘Superman’ and ‘Star Wars’ films. And as ever, his film music score for ‘Hook‘ is very good. It’s action-packed, magical and wonderful as it should be for a ‘Peter Pan’ film.
The DVD special features are as follows. There are some theatrical trailers including one for ‘Hook’; ‘Bicentennial Man’; ‘Muppets From Space’ and ‘Stuart Little’. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette on ‘Hook’; ‘The Lost Treasure’ Set Top Game; 3 photo galleries and some talent profiles.
‘Hook’ is a classic film featuring an intriguing twist on the familiar ‘Peter Pan’ story. I enjoyed this movie when I saw it as a kid and still enjoy it now. Robin Williams is superb as Peter Pan as well as Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook. It’s a film I have a soft spot for and look on with very fond memories.
I won’t say this movie is as good as the original 1953 Disney ‘Peter Pan’ film and I prefer the 2003 live-action film of ‘Peter Pan’ over this one. But ‘Hook’ is a movie that deserves its praise. It’s well-made; well-directed; features some lovely performances from the cast and has a very gripping story.
‘Hook’ rating – 8/10
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