The misadventures of Peter Pan, Wendy, and the motley Lost Boys receive a modern redux in Peter Pan and Wendy.
Another day passes; another Disney remake emerges from the cracks. The House of Mouse continues to undergo an onslaught of live-action modernizations from its lionized library of beloved classics. Sure, this trend has produced a few worthwhile features (Pete’s Dragon and A Jungle Book), but the overall body of work continues to underwhelm. Middling live-action make-overs like The Lion King, Mulan, Dumbo, and Lady and the Tramp represent a nadir in quality and imagination for the studio. Most of these features inject little life into their well-worn stories, simply relying on the animation-to-live-action gimmick as a shoddy cash grab rather than reimaging what the originals stood for.
Compared to most Disney remakes, I harbored some hope for Peter Pan and Wendy. Arthouse director David Lowery achieved an exceptional feat in transforming one of the studio’s lesser fantasy tales, Pete’s Dragon, into a humanistic story bursting with moving sentiments. The story of Peter Pan also boasts inherently more sophistication than its peers, reckoning with the trials and tribulations of adolescents in a profoundly timeless manner that can resonate through all age ranges.
Unfortunately, while there are good intentions to celebrate, Peter Pan and Wendy never masks the redundancy of Disney’s remake formula.
To Lowery’s credit, there are glimmers of promise here. He and co-screenwriter Toby Halbrooks make a few subtle plotting alterations that open the door for some contemplative new additions. I particularly enjoyed the duo’s reinterpretation of Peter Pan and Captain Hook. The duo’s age-old feud fuels both in embracing preordained roles as heroes and villains, but in actuality, their endless cycle of violent escapades morphs both into bad-faith figures who aggressively act out instead of grappling with their problems. I do believe Lowery and Halbrooks boasted a spirited vision for this adaptation, trying to reinvigorate the story’s roots by enhancing the human dynamics buried within the fantastical narrative.
If only the creative team’s noble ideas could seize the spotlight. Peter Pan and Wendy often finds itself jockeying between two identities. There is a version of the film that attempts to recontextualize the story’s ancient mythos in a new introspective light. However, those ambitions ultimately suffocate from an overwhelming need to create a safe and easily-digestible product for the masses.
As a result, much of the narrative adopts a lazy, self-satisfied embrace of running through the motions, sidelining its more nuanced ideas in favor of a pleasant yet rudimentary yarn. Even some of Lowery’s more distinctive flourishes behind the camera, like the film’s washed-out color pallet and embrace of real-world vistas, struggle to make an impact against the murky conformity of Disney remake’s bland visual profile.
The ensemble of skilled performers, including young stars Alexander Molany and Ever Anderson and veteran stalwart Jude Law, help bring some agency to the proceedings. Still, the lack of meaningful textures for these characters leaves the group with little to build upon in their performances. The lack of follow-through is even more frustrating when considering Peter Pan’s lore has already received several remakes that landed far more inspiring results (Benh Zeitlin’s criminally underrated Wendy came out just a few years ago).
Peter Pan and Wendy represents another competent yet largely unsatisfying remake from Disney. Here is to hoping that Disney eventually quits this tedious remake trend!
Peter Pan and Wendy is now playing on Disney+.
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