Fairy tales seem to be running rampant in films today. "Beauty and the Beast" is winning praise and "Robin Hood" was one of the top money-makers of 1991. And now, at Oscar time, another fantasy is tearing up the box office. This is Steven Spielberg's "Hook," a whimsical, magical, almost extraordinary film that is much more than a fairy tale. Director Spielberg uses scenes in present day California and London to modernize an old story.
"Hook" is not getting the recognition it deserves from critics who are concentrating too much on bothersome, small details. It is hard for me to imagine how any fan of the original story and play would not be moved by this modern retelling.
Robin Williams stars as Peter Pan, now Peter Banning, a workaholic California lawyer. He has grown up, married, and now has two kids and doesn't have the slightest idea who he once was. Furthermore, his children (especially his son Jack) feel neglected by him. When they take a trip to London, that feeling of neglect increases.
One night, Peter and his wife Moira (Wendy's granddaughter) are out and, lo and behold, Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman in a terrific performance) kidnaps Peter's children and brings them to Never Never Land. Peter doesn't know what's happened until Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) arrives to bring him to Never Never Land to save his kids. Even in Never Land, Peter doesn't remember who he is. But with the help of Tink and the Lost Boys (all very good), he finds his "happy thought" and learns to fly again. As a somewhat reborn Pan, he goes one on one with Hook, who is trying to gain Jack's affections for himself. Surprisingly, the film slows down in Never Land, and the whole Peter-finding-himself process takes much too long. Nonetheless, Williams and Hoffman (who deserves an Oscar nomination) work magic and make time not much of an issue.
Williams and Hoffman compete to steal the show, but they are both the stars. I would have liked to have seen them on screen together more often because they played so well off each other. As Tinkerbell, Julia Roberts doesn't do much except smile a lot and look lovely. It isn't her fault though; her part is underwritten. The sets were vast and realistic. However, there were too many extras who made Never Land seem cluttered. Spielberg's decision to leave the film at two and a half hours was a mistake. He could have ended an already too long film several times before he did.
Despite these minor flaws, "Hook" is still a major winner. It is a lot of fun for all ages and even provokes an occasional tear. "Hook" may not be the classic it aspires to be, but it is an extremely appealing movie. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.