Movie Review: I love many of David Lowery’s movies – but I do not love this one. “Peter Pan & Wendy” serves as the newest mixture of soulless Disney live action remakes and lauded directors trying to get their next movie financed. The results are not great. In fact, they are quite poor.
In recent weeks, David Lowery has been touting around his newest Disney+ offering “Peter Pan & Wendy,” offering up the sentiment that this may just be his most personal effort. Set aside the fact that Lowery is responsible for some of the industry’s most distinct projects in years – from the harrowing and desolate “A Ghost Story” to his manipulated version of the Arthurian legend in “The Green Knight” – to call his newest work his personal favorite may just be a form of salesmanship. At least that’s what I thought before even laying my eyes on the movie. Now I’m worried a studio exec at Disney was holding him hostage at his house, forcing such mild affectations. Someone, check on David Lowery.
Yes, Lowery’s vision in “Peter Pan & Wendy” isn’t that different or unique compared to the original story, but coming from Lowery’s previous movies that inspire a heartfelt sense of appreciation for the people and items that reside in the real world (or the posthumous one), you’d think he would have some sort of twist or different understanding of the source material that would give it some weight. Perhaps his slick visual style of sharp desaturation comes through partially when allowed, but beyond that, there’s not much to pull apart that adds to his own filmography – or that changes the notion that Disney is okay with simple and mindless recreations of their previously catalogued material.
“Peter Pan & Wendy” tells the story that is well known at this point: Wendy Darling is swept away to Neverland with the sneaking and kiddish Peter Pan. Along with his tag team group of “Lost Boys,” the young ones take on the ravaging Captain Hook and his ship of pirates destined to take down Peter Pan no matter the cost. Jude Law dons the pointy claw this time around in the role that feels the least awkward, even if that isn’t saying much.
David Lowery’s rendition of “Peter Pan” feels like a clear and unremarkable “one for them” before he returns to *hopefully* his next string of idiosyncratic ideas and perceptions on life, but it’s odd to see such a stark difference in quality between the director’s eye and taste for the soul-crushing scene of Rooney Mara eating a pie, and the scene of green-screened kids flying out of caves to avoid the jaws of an oversized crocodile (alligator? Regardless, still might be one of the scenes that stand out in “Peter Pan & Wendy” solely because of the premise. Not good, though).
And maybe there’s no way to better sum up “Peter Pan & Wendy” then to say that it feels like watching a child try to fit square pegs through a round hole. David Lowery’s touch can be felt so slightly in scenes with beautiful landscapes and visually striking forests, but it’s for a movie with flying children, a floating pirate ship, and Tinker Bell. This hodgepodge of ideas and visuals is a weird clash from the jump, and it doesn’t seem to balance out as it goes on.
Alexander Molony and Ever Anderson do their best as the two lead children, although Molony’s Peter Pan feels like a boiled-down, barebones caricature of the leader. Ever Anderson feels a bit more comfortable in the greater infrastructure around her, able to mold and change depending on who’s in frame with her. If either actor or actress goes on to a big career, it won’t be due to the success or demands of this film, though. They feel like paychecks for the actors involved just like it does for the man behind the camera.
Unfortunately, I think that mostly squeezes out how I felt leaving “Peter Pan & Wendy.” I was hoping that David Lowery’s name being attached to it would’ve made it a bit easier to get through, but much like Guy Ritchie directing “Aladdin” or Jon Favreau spearheading “The Lion King,” these remakes suck the life and style out of their filmmakers. If Tim Burton and David Lowery weren’t able to make it work, I have a feeling no one will. At least there can’t be that many Disney properties left, right? RIGHT?
“Peter Pan & Wendy” is now available to stream on Disney+
“Peter Pan & Wendy” Cast and Credits
Alexander Molony as Peter Pan
Ever Anderson as Wendy Darling
Jude Law as Captain Hook
Alyssa Wapanatâhk as Tiger Lily
Jim Gaffigan as Mr. Smee
Joshua Blue Pickering as John Darling
Jacobi Jupe as Michael Darling
Yara Shahidi as Tinker Bell
Director: David Lowery
Writers: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks, J.M. Barrie (Original Writer)
Cinematography: Bojan Bazelli
Editor: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Composers: Oliver Wallace, Daniel Hart
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