Monday, December 26, 2005


From the Vault: Hook

Parallels between director Steven Spielberg and the character Peter Pan have circulated for years, stemming from the director's perceived lack of maturity in his work and his admitted desire to film the Pan story himself.

Now comes Hook, which should close the book on both the criticism and Spielberg's tendencies by allowing the director to get Neverland out of his system. Unfortunately, all Spielberg has come up with is an overproduced and underconceived yawner of a movie.

Hook's premise shows promise, especially in the early scenes. Peter Pan has departed the land of the Lost Boys to move to America and grow up into Peter Banning (Robin Williams), a career-obsessed corporate attorney who spends more quality time with his cell phone than his wife (Caroline Goodall) or his children (Charlie Korsmo, Amber Scott).

Fulfilling one of the few promises he ever keeps, Banning takes the family to London to visit his wife's grandmother Wendy (Maggie Smith) — the real Wendy from the Peter Pan stories. She remembers Banning's past, though his memory omits everything that happened before he was 12.

Afraid of heights and open windows, Banning seems apprehensive about the Darling family home and soon sees why when his kids are abducted by a man who signs his note Captain James Hook. Thus, the stage is set for the most tedious, cluttered movie in recent memory.

Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) whisks Banning back to Neverland to reclaim his lost perpetual youth and face off with the vengeful Hook in order to retrieve his children. It's not just Pan's youth that was lost, so was the movie's premise.

The principal idea (What if Peter Pan grew up?") seems to be all there is. No real sense of what that would really mean appears in the film. All that remains is an extremely long setup followed by an extremely boring payoff consisting mainly of an amnesiac Banning running around with the Lost Boys in some Regarding Henry-esque voyage of self-discovery.

Portraying Hook falls on the capable shoulders of Dustin Hoffman, who looks like Terry-Thomas and talks like William F. Buckley Jr. Hoffman, along with Bob Hoskins as his sidekick Smee, seem to be the only ones having fun in this film. Unfortunately, their limited screen time prevents them from sharing that spirit with the audience.

Hook has that glossy Spielberg feel and the requisite bombastic John Williams score, but it's bloated and lacks magic. Spielberg's talent seems to be missing, especially in Hook's poorly choreographed and confusing action scenes.

The sets explode with so many artificial details that at times you want to avert your eyes from the excess. About an hour and 15 minutes into Hook, a youngster a few seats down from me asked his mom, "When will it be over?" Unfortunately, the answer was another hour away and that finally kills Hook.

If all elements had been tightened and the script seemed more like an original than a lukewarm remake, Hook could have been a classic. As it is, this is just a fairly well-made exercise in tedium. One can only hope that Spielberg can now move his talent forward and stop stagnating in Neverland.

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