Blu-ray Review: HOOK - When Peter Pan Grew Up

Despite its star studded cast and subsequently solid performances, Hook is less one for the family more one for the kids.

rating: 2.5

I sat smack bang in the middle of Hook€™s major target demographic when it was released in 1991. I was an innocent child, five years old to be specific, and I admit to falling hook, line and sinker for its hugely budgeted adventure sensibilities. Jump forward twenty years to Hook€™s recent budget Blu-ray renovation; does it still hold the same charm to the cynical, bill-addled mind of a disenfranchised twenty-something? Directed by movie goliath Steven Spielberg, Hook isn€™t quite a sequel to J.M Barrie€™s eponymous stage-play Peter Pan but it€™s not exactly a remake either. It€™s something of an extended re-imagining that takes certain narrative liberties with the original characters; giving them lives beyond the ending of the original story. Maybe you like Peter Pan, maybe you never have but this is inarguably an interesting premise that lends credence to anyone who€™s loved a character enough to imagine them outside of their medium. Peter Banning (Robin Williams) is a piratic mergers-and-acquisitions executive living in California with his wife (Caroline Goodall) and two children (Charlie Korsmo and Amber Scott). Despite their repeated beckoning to connect with him, Banning remains distant and obsessed with his plunder €“ the ever present life defining business deal that promises to be his final adventure. After ten long years of unexplained absence, Peter packs up his family and boards a plane to Britain to visit his foster mother Wendy (Maggie Smith), the woman on whom J.M Barrie modelled Peter Pan€™s original matriarch. But even in the house in which the Peter Pan legend was born, Banning can€™t put his career on the backburner to connect with his loved ones for more than a minute or two into their arrival. It seems overkill that a films status quo should take such a chunk of text to explain but Hook€™s first act- while never exactly straying into the mundane- does seem surprisingly long winded, especially when we finally arrive at the core plot mechanic. At around the 30 minute mark, while Banning and the other adults are attending a function, his children are kidnapped by the notorious Never-Never Land arch villain Captain Hook. Wendy soon reveals that Never Land is tangibly real and Banning is actually Peter Pan, now a man grown having turned away from his forgotten eternal youth upon falling in love with her daughter €“ now Banning€™s wife. And thus begins the true story: Peter must travel to Never Land accompanied by the oddly sexy Tinkerbell (played with effortless charm by Julia Roberts) to reclaim his connection to his youth before he can save his children. It€™s a charming premise at the root, but it€™s not exactly subtly delivered. It attempts to push itself into the realm of €˜Meta€™ but finds itself requiring massive amounts of exposition in order to truly paint the picture of what€™s happening here. It€™s not convoluted as such but it does struggle to truly convey what it needs to with imagery alone (why Peter Pan has grown up in the first place for example) and reams of expository dialogue are forced to suffice. Robin Williams brings his usual dramatic weight to the role, and makes himself thoroughly believable as the tightly wound Peter Banning. He€™s even a semi-delight when he dons the iconic Peter Pan garb towards the climax, although he does seem a perceivably uncomfortable at times (wouldn€™t you, in a pair of tiny green shorts?) Williams gives a decent show here no doubt, but it€™s a far cry from the scene-stealing performance that Dustin Hoffman delivers as the sardonic Captain James Hook, who remains largely un-tampered with. He€™s still the same narcissistic, overcompensating sadist from the play and the Disney movie. So good is Hoffman in this role in fact, that I was amazed that it was actually him when I realised years later. Of course, no Never Land would be truly complete without some Lost Boys (it€™d be morally dubious to drop in a Michael Jackson joke here, so I€™ll let this remark be the joke in itself) but that group of zany kids that I have in my memory, the ones I thought were awesome as a five year old, are now just a little annoying. Their sprawling jungle hideout is like a rehab clinic from the nineties, complete with skateboard half pipes and basketball courts. It appears that all we€™re missing for a potential boy band is some denim outfits and a ghetto blaster. I can imagine its adult free charm will still appeal to the youth of today, but the parents watching it with them will cringe at how dated it all seems. As mentioned previously, Hook was hugely budgeted (a staggering $70 million) but its massive production value seems to have been betrayed by a somewhat oversentimental, lacklustre script and equally unenergetic direction from Spielberg. There€™s an abundance of action but it€™s almost entirely plot driven and often falls flat, failing to generate the sort of meaning and substance that Spielberg€™s high-concept features are famous for. Don€™t misunderstand, there€™s definitely a strong emotional core to Hook that simultaneously urges adults to remember their inner child and encourages children to retain it, but as soon as the inevitable flight training montage kicks in, all that takes a sharpish backseat. Hook does however look great on Blu-Ray (presented in 1080p, in its original 2.39:1 cinematic widescreen) with a sharp level of detail and colouring that makes it look more contemporary than it actually is. It also boasts a wonderfully immersive sound mix presented in the customary 5.1 DTS that manages to pick out intimate sound detail, such as the tinkling of a rocking chandelier, amidst the throes of the frenetic film score. While the disc is devoid of features, the bottom range value pricing of this release must be taken into account while weighing this up as a deal breaker. Hook isn€™t the worst movie in the world as you probably already know. Sure it has its drawbacks for those in adulthood but to its children viewers it will distract and delight just as it did that snot-nosed little brat I remember myself to have been when I first saw it. It isn€™t going to be raised up as anyone€™s favourite movie, of that I€™m fairly certain, but it might just shut a young relative up for 2 and a half hours this Christmas. Film €“ 2 ½ / 5 Hugely expensive to produce, Hook is ultimately let down by its plot-driven, oversentimental delivery of its subject matter, despite managing to deliver a thrill or two along the way. It€™s a markedly average family movie that ticks enough boxes to appeal to its younger audience but not quite enough to capture the adults. Presentation €“ 4/5 The movie itself looks and sounds great on Blu-Ray, delivering a vastly upgraded audio-visual experience than what may be in the minds of many. The cover art is satisfyingly colourful and just looking at it alone is enough to flood the memory with nostalgia. With only a few options over an obligatory rolling montage, the menu system itself isnt exactly innovative but hey, it€™s a budget release - what more do you need? Extras €“ N/A There€™s absolutely nothing else beside the film, but with its meagre pricing I can€™t find it in me to criticise too harshly. Overall- 2 1/2 /5 For a child of the nineties, Hook provides a brief walk down memory lane and for the current children out there it€™ll no doubt entertain, but it certainly won€™t be making any serious top-ten lists. It provides a few decent thrills and spills but thanks to a markedly saccharine script and uninspired direction it never truly manages to pop. Despite its star studded cast and subsequently solid performances, Hook is less one for the family more one for the kids. Hook is out now on Blu-ray.
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