Why is it that this beautiful, layered and romantic children's story is the one Hollywood refuses to cease engaging in necrophilia? We've seen the rape of this piece of literature in full power for over two decades. From Spielberg's fat piñata that is Hook to the recent NBC version of Peter as a woman's table tennis champion, this story has been exploited perhaps more than any other fairy tale. And is it at all presumptuous? -- this new addiction with providing the origin stories for other author's works? As much as I enjoy it, would Frank L. Baum have appreciated someone penciling in how the witches of the east and west were school chums in Wicked? Or what about that Scarecrow hooking up with both of them thing? And how would Sir James Barrie have taken this news about Peter Pan being born as a result of inter-kingdom sex? Not sure. Regardless, the story isn't really the issue here. Bad taste is. In virtually every department. It's going to take a long time for director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina) to shower this off.
It begins with kind of an strange Oliver-meets-Annie-rock-music sequence that features flying pirate ships and is unfortunate for everyone involved. Hugh Jackman marches about with sort of a feminine swagger as he wanly lip-syncs to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" dressed for a steam-punk themed gay pride tea-dance. He seems to enjoy doing this while having lost boys tossed into a pit of death.
You gotta hand it to Hugh Jackman and the career he's created. He's like a less weird version of Johnny Depp who can sing, dance and be a butch superhero while hosting the Tonys -- all at the same time if necessary. He's better than a triple threat, more like a quadruple threat. That being said, Hugh and his fellow cast members look here as if they've been directed to act like they're all in an episode of Lidsville by Sid & Marty Kroft. It's like a holiday pantomime with dirty people in drag.
The movie is filled with screen-acting professionals who look as if they've never done a movie before. Garrett Hedlund sounds like someone told him to pretend to be an Australian having to use an American accent -- curious. It is a truly bizarre stew of poor taste. From unappealing costumes to incongruent music, it's no wonder that this freak show was known about well before release. Everyone and everything is working way too hard. The first hour is uniquely unlikable, while the second gives you a glimpse of what a nice film this could have been in someone else's hands. The last ten minutes are actually somewhat magical, but, by that point it's a dead horse who can wink, only a little. Disney's Cinderella, earlier this year, proves sometimes telling the story without irony or invention can be refreshingly lovely. So, too, the best screen version of Peter Pan (by far) is the 2004 release by Universal with Jason Isaacs and Jeremy Sumpter, directed by P.J. Hogan. Just see that one instead.
(Loudinni specializes in movie reviews to be read in a minute or less.)