Peter Pan & Wendy

Peter Pan & Wendy: Don’t Bother With This Trip To Neverland

Dept. of Soulless Retreads


Disney first gave us their animated adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan all the way back in 1953. It was great. It was a tale that both children and adults alike can relate to. It is a classic. Growing up, I spent countless hours in front of my TV, completely immersed in Disney’s Silver Age classics. Alice in Wonderland, The Sword in the Stone, Lady and the Tramp, these were films that would stay with me throughout my childhood, and all the way into adulthood. Peter Pan was no exception. As a kid, the thought of flying off to Neverland always felt like a magical adventure that I too wanted to embark on. I was so obsessed with wanting to be Peter Pan that I would spend my time running around my house, in my makeshift costume, and jumping off beds pretending I could fly. (Spoilers: I couldn’t. I just landed myself with numerous bruises instead.) Over time, the inevitable happened, and I eventually grew up. The boy in me, however, never stopped longing for the feeling I had when I first watched that Disney cartoon.

Over the years, we have gotten numerous film adaptations about Peter, Wendy, and the Lost Boys, and while some where decent attempts, nothing has quite matched up to what we first got 70 years ago. Sure, 1991’s Hook came pretty close, with Steven Spielberg’s unique take on the tale, but it still didn’t have me feeling the same way. So, when I got wind that Disney was doing this live-action remake, I was hoping they would do what they do best and transport me once again. Alas, Peter Pan & Wendy did not. This was an unnecessarily mature, fairly lackluster, and slightly odd rehash. So much so that I once again found myself wondering why I was hoping for something good when Disney has been indulging in an infamous streak of unimaginative, carbon copy remakes of their most beloved animated classics.

Why Does This Movie Exist?

Peter Pan & Wendy

Now you already know this story well. Peter Pan appears one night in the bedroom of the Darling children, whisks them off to Neverland in order to escape their world and live a life of adventure with the Lost Boys, and eventually do battle with Captain Hook. It’s all pretty standard fare. But that in itself is one of this movie’s glaring downfalls. We’ve seen all of this before, and much like their previous remakes, if you wanted to see this same story again, why wouldn’t you just watch the original on Disney Plus?

There isn’t anything special here at all. So why even bother making it? The reason why films like Cruella, Maleficent, and Christopher Robin worked, lies in the fact that Disney bothered to take a beloved character and craft a new and interesting story that we hadn’t seen before. The classics have never been more accessible, so why bother doing this if you’re not going to take risks? What is the creative impetus here?

What Have They Done to These Characters?

Peter Pan & Wendy

Which brings me to the overall tone of the movie. Peter Pan is a story that needs to exude tenderness. It is about childhood’s end coming to terms with growing up. It should be lighthearted, and compassionate, with just the right amount of magic thrown in for good measure. Director David Lowery, however, kind of missed the memo on that one. While the film does set us off with some fairly witty and fun moments, it very quickly takes a sharp dive into some a fairly serious drama, that takes place in saturated towns, and less than colorful atmospheres. With a tale like this, it just feels oddly out of place. And when you realize that Lowery was also responsible for movies like A Ghost Story and The Green Knight, you realize that his stylistic choices, while choices, may not necessarily be best for this kind of story. (Think Chloé Zhao and Eternals.)

All of this also plays into the odd characterizations of both Peter Pan and Wendy. These are characters that should be both likable and fun. They are not. While Wendy eventually redeems herself and becomes a sort of strong mother figure for the Lost Boys, she begins this movie as a sort of angsty teenager whose formative years were punctuated by the music of My Chemical Romance. It’s a weird choice, but nowhere near as drastic as what they did to Peter.

I don’t know how Disney managed to do it, but they have delivered the most arrogant, self-centered, annoying little prick with this Peter Pan. This version of the character has so many mummy issues that he should be in therapy instead of a magical island. From the moment he appears in the Darling household, there is this air about him that just isn’t likable. The writers seem to have somehow exorcised his playfulness, charm, and wit and have given us instead a young boy who has a grudge against anyone wanting to return home to their mothers. No discredit to young Alexander Molony. He was doing the best he could with the terrible material he was given.

Who Is This Movie For?

Peter Pan & Wendy

The one saving grace in Peter Pan & Wendy, rather unsurprisingly, is Jude Law’s Captain Hook. The leader of the pirates and his crew were delightful and full of wit. Law was perfect. He had you rooting for him throughout. Even having you feel a profound sadness when you discover how and why he became the man he is. I won’t lie, there were times when I honestly hoped he would come out triumphant at the end. To me, Captain Hook was the real hero of this story, and it may be a long shot, but I want to see a spinoff focusing on him instead.

But even that minuscule redeeming quality isn’t enough to save this confused misfire. Just which demographic is it supposed to cater to? Surely this is a story for families. One that presents a magical world where kids have fun and never grow up. Peter Pan & Wendy is just simply too grown-up, and slightly traumatic, for anyone under the age of 12 to actually sit down, watch, and have a good time. You have the cartoon. You don’t need this one. And unlike the cartoon, you don’t leave with a heart full of wonder and a lifetime of magical memories. Instead, you are left sitting there thinking to yourself, “Thank God I didn’t end up like that.”

Peter Pan & Wendy is now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.

Nick Dorian spent most of his childhood dreaming of being a plumber, mainly because he loved watching Super Mario go on adventures. When he heartbreakingly discovered actual plumbers don't go on great adventures in real life, he went on to sit in front of a TV or movie screen, watching more people go on adventures, and then talk to anybody around him about what he's seen, whether they liked it or not. Fast forward to today, he somehow managed to make watching movies and TV shows, and discussing them, an actual living. Which goes to show, dreams do come true. Except when you dream of being an Italian plumber who fights mushrooms and toads.

Star Wars Celebration
Previous Story

The Goggler Podcast #369: Star Wars Celebration 2023

Ann Harada Jamie Camil
Next Story

Schmigadoon!: We Speak to Ann Harada and Jaime Camil

Latest from Movie Reviews