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Movie Reviews

Return To Neverland  

The sequel to Disney's version of Sir James M. Barrie's (after 48 years -
surely a record) finds Captain Hook raiding London during the Blitz to kidnap
the girl Wendy - except that Wendy's grown up now and Hook has taken her
daughter Jane instead. Amusing and enjoyable (with an honorable effort to
duplicate the long-gone voices of the original actors), the film, despite its
1940s setting, teems with 21st century Girl Power: where Wendy's brothers
went adventuring with Peter, Jane's brother stays home in London; where Wendy played mother to the Lost Boys, Jane is just one of the guys.

As the film begins, it has been years since Wendy left Neverland, and now
she's grown up with two children of her own, Jane and a toddler brother. They
reside in dismal World War II London. While she may still think of Peter and
tell stories to her own kids about her adventures with the cocky boy way back
when, Peter himself would scarcely be caught dead with her or any other adult
for more than a few moments at a time.

Jane is a practical girl who cannot fathom a world of make believe, who
can not accept the existence of a world her mother recounted to the children
year after year.

As Wendy's younger daughter Jane falls asleep long after her dad is trucked off to the front she is whisked off to Neverland by the evil Captain Hook (voice of Corey Burton), who kidnaps her, mistaking her for her mother. It's up to Peter, (voice of Blayne Weaver) whom she meets along after he rescues her from Captain Hook, to convince her to have faith, trust, a belief in pixie dust and the importance remaining child-like.

A non-believer, at first, her disbelief threatens the life of Tinker Bell, whose lights are dimming as though she needed the good wishes of everyone in Neverland just to stay alive. While Peter tries desperately to convince Jane to get over her denial, Jane is not interested in sticking around with him and the Lost Boys, whom she dismisses as "a bunch of silly, ridiculous children." She wants to go

Nonetheless, Peter and the boys eventually win her over and help her get in touch with her 'inner-child' right before Hook captures Peter and takes him back to the ship. It's up to Jane and Tinker Bell to set him free. This time, in contrast to the original movie, it's Jane who gets to appear dramatically on the yardarm to rescue Peter, her hair flowing heroically in the breeze. Jane's first flight on her own around the pirate ship as she challenges Hook is delightful to watch.

Comments: This movie took me back to when I was 10-years old again. My wife
and I both agree that this movie has the same tone and "gee-whiz" as the
original "Peter Pan." Peter Pan hasn't grown up a bit. He's still the same irascible character 49 years later as he was in 1953. We loved it. As the movie says you really don't have to turn your back on your youth in order to grow up and be responsible. I left the movie soaring (just like I did more than two decades ago). So did the approximately 200 4-year olds to 12-year olds who won free passes to the screening.

The theme of "Return to Neverland" is similar to that of the original Peter Pan movie: Only believe. Have faith, trust, and pixie dust, and don't ever grow up (at least in your heart and mind). "Return to Neverland" pays homage to the original "Peter Pan" at every turn. But a huge octopus that pops its suction cups as if snapping fingers, an echo of the croc's ticking clock, has replaced Hook's old nemesis -the crocodile -. I liked the crocodile much more. "The first film is about a little girl who is afraid to grow up, but learns that you needn't give up your youth simply because you age. In our sequel, Jane learns that you don't have to turn your back on your youth in order to grow up and be responsible," said co-director Donovan Cook.

Usually a critic does not judge a movie by audience reaction, but when cartoons are the order of the day, I think it behooves us to listen to its effects of the 4-to-8 year olds (the target audience) in the theater. The older kids seemed to enjoy it some, but the younger kids seem enraptured by the show. The adults at the screening who saw the original as 8-year-olds to 10-year-olds (at a guess) during it's first release seemed as caught up in the show as the younger children. I could see them transported back to their child hood by the sparkle in the eye and the rapt attention to the screen.

4 1/2 out of 5

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