What is there left to say about the Disney live-action remakes at this point? Almost every criticism directed towards one of them could be applied to another. They’re boring, lifeless, and pale imitations of their animated counterparts. Criticizing one almost feels redundant considering how the one before it was probably terrible for the same reasons too.
As such, it’s hard to come up with anything new to say about Disney’s latest live-action remake, Peter Pan & Wendy. Just like Pinocchio, this one is a direct remake of the animated film with a few changes here and there (particularly with Hook’s character), just not enough to really call this a new experience. This makes its existence even more frustrating. At least with films like Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, they’re new takes and perspectives on the story, making them feel slightly more justified.
With Peter Pan & Wendy, why not just watch the 1953 animated film? Or the 2003 live-action non-Disney one? Or for a new perspective, why not watch Hook or Tinker Bell or even Finding Neverland? J.M. Barrie’s original work has been told, retold, reworked, and reimagined so many times that a 2023 film of just the original story is already a hard sell.
Of course, certain stories are timeless, so while unnecessary, a new faithful adaptation of the Peter Pan story could still be fun to watch. Unfortunately, Peter Pan & Wendy has no magic or whimsy in it whatsoever, and its (far too long) 106 minutes feel like a slog to get through. This film goes through the motions of its story like it’s doing taxes, which is not what you want when you’re watching a film about the magic of childhood.
Visually, this film is incredibly dull to look at. Before they go to Neverland, the visuals are actually so dark they’re near impossible to see. The scene where Peter, Tinker Bell, and the Darling children are flying around London is one of Disney’s most beautiful and iconic animated moments, but in this film, London looks like the dullest city in the world. The scene goes by so quickly too, like the film’s in a rush to get to Neverland as quickly as possible.
This might be forgiven if this film’s Neverland was a terrific one to be in, but Neverland in this film is just as dull and boring as London is. At times, it’s easy to forget that this is supposed to be a magical place and not just a place by the ocean and with a forest. I can’t imagine any kid dreaming about visiting such a lifeless-looking place, even if they’re able to fly around it.
The 1953 animated Peter Pan boasts some of Disney’s most beloved characters — Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, and Smee are all filled with so much personality, they’re instantly likable. These are not the same characters present in Peter Pan & Wendy. Almost all personality is sucked out of all of them — every character seems to just be saying their dialogue and doing their actions because that’s what the screenplay dictates them to do.
It’s hard to blame the actors for this — the film’s direction and writing are so lifeless the cast is given almost nothing to work with. I felt nothing for these characters — not endearment, not empathy, not even dislike or anger, just nothing.
On paper, the story of Peter Pan seems like it’s impossible to mess up. It’s a story about being a kid and visiting a world filled with fairies, mermaids, and pirates — surely even mediocre adaptations will have their share of magic and charm.
Peter Pan & Wendy, however, is proof that for certain stories, going through the motions just isn’t enough. You need to have heart and soul when telling a Peter Pan story, two things this movie lacks.
Note: This review has been updated to clarify that, while a mostly familiar Peter Pan story, Peter Pan & Wendy does offer some changes and is not a beat-for-beat remake of the animated film, as the review previously implied.
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Both visually and narratively uninteresting, Peter Pan & Wendy is another forgettable live-action remake from Disney, and further proof that live-action versions of animated movies are just not on par.
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