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Universal Studios (DVD) ASIN B0001HAISG

P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan updates J. M. Barrie's classic tale, beloved by millions of children (and grown-ups), reworking it into a bittersweet fable of innocence and experience, placing its central characters at the cusp of adolescence. Possibly the most famous mother-figure in children's literature, Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) struggles to reconcile her naiveté and love of games, adventures and fairy stories with her father's strictures. In easily one of the most wrenching moments of the film, Mr. Darling's furious injunction to "Grow up!" cuts deeply.

dvd: peter pan From this, Wendy's bedtime stories of pirates and Indians find a life of their own. In a neat Freudian twist Jason Isaacs doubles as the rigidly middle-class, socially inept George Darling, and the villainous, manipulative Captain Hook, the silken malevolence of his Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films given a freer rein.

That's not to say purists won't find plenty to enjoy, between rousing skirmishes with Hook's motley crew that can turn surprisingly brutal, encounters with Princess Tiger Lily, Neverland's sinister mermaids and a wickedly funny Ludvine Seigner, every bit as capricious as any self-respecting Tinkerbell should be. Though some may balk at Jeremy Sumpter's all-American Peter, in a story long part of nostalgia for a certain kind of Britishness exemplified by Wendy, John and Michael's flight past Big Ben, his effervescent performance more than makes up for such a disappointment. He proves thoroughly natural, confident and winningly mischievous.

As Peter and Wendy tease out the complications of all that flirting, Wendy begins to realize just how far from childhood she really is. Wendy's knotty relationships with her father and her wise, queenly mother are transposed to breathtaking adventures with Peter, Hook and the Lost Boys. The film incorporates many adult issues in true fairy-tale tradition; the coming-of-age themes of Wendy's favorite Brothers-Grimm romances resonate throughout. To triumph Peter must acknowledge something deeper than the eternal child within himself, and Wendy must accept the pull of adulthood and "happily ever after." Hook's bitterness finally finishes him as efficiently as any ticking crocodile.

The many delights this film offers include a dazzling journey across a glittering Edwardian London sky by night to a glowing Neverland, done every justice by the DVD format. Strong supporting turns from beloved British stalwarts Richard Briers, Geoffrey Palmer and Lynn Redgrave, alongside the luminous Olivia Williams and relative unknown Theodore Chester as Slightly glitter just as brightly. Better still, Peter Pan succeeds as an atmospheric adventure that kept a fractious five-year old and her babysitter silent and enchanted for the full hour and forty minutes. Not overburdened with symbolism, this fun, riotously colorful adaptation mines new joys from an old story.

Maysa M. Hattab

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