Movie Review: Peter Pan & Wendy

The latest trip to Neverland is dark and dreamlike — but not particularly memorable.


For a few decades now, Disney has been trying to make Lost Boys of us all.

Ever since the Mouse House first introduced grown-up entertainments into its theme parks in the ’90s — oh, to travel back in time and visit Pleasure Island — the mega-corporation has sought to engage all generations. Now, much of Disney’s parks and events are aimed at the unimaginatively dubbed Disney Adults, who have far more money to spend on tchotchkes and memorabilia. Meanwhile, the movie studio keeps buying properties sacred to Generation X and Millennials. (Hey kids — did you know that, long ago, Star Wars, Marvel and The Simpsons weren’t all parts of the same media conglomerate?)

That’s not to criticize; it’s smart strategy. I’m wrapped in a Haunted Mansion blanket right now, to be honest. But it makes the experience of watching any narrative about Peter Pan, famously the boy who wouldn’t grow up, a bit odd.

Grow up? Don’t? What’s the difference?

In “Peter Pan & Wendy,” the fictional flier is both story and reality, existing in both the Darling children’s picturebooks and the corporeal world. (The metaphor keeps extending; after all, you can watch Peter on screen then get a photo-op with him in Orlando, can’t you?) This new telling of the familiar tale dispenses with the formalities, assuming we already know the basics about Peter (Alexander Molony), Wendy (Ever Anderson), Captain Hook (Jude Law) and Tinker Bell (Yara Shahadi).

With no need to dive into the backstory, then, “Peter Pan & Wendy” gets straight to playing the hits: catching an errant shadow, flying to Neverland, clocks and alligators, pirates and mischief. It’s a breezy, efficient approach to the fairy tale; so breezy in fact, that it feels insubstantial. It feels like a movie that’s playing in the background while you’re nominally paying attention.

“Peter Pan & Wendy” is director David Lowery’s somewhat unlikely follow-up to the fascinating fantasy “The Green Knight,” a film that merged dramatic imagery with an off-kilter tone, making for a decidedly memorable experience. “Peter Pan & Wendy” retains the imagery and the darkness — this is a film that only seems to take place at night or dawn — but keeps none of the weirdness, resulting in an experience that is visually hearty but ultimately thin.

The script, by Lowery and his frequent producing partner Toby Halbrooks, attempts to inject some back-half pathos by establishing a connection between Peter and the Captain, but by that point, you’ll have likely started folding laundry. And in that, a flaw in Disney’s content cannon is revealed: If a new Peter Pan drops on Disney+, where one can just as easily watch a half-dozen better Peter Pans, why would anyone bother?

My Rating: 5/10

“Peter Pan & Wendy” is now streaming on Disney+.

Categories: Sean Collier’s Popcorn for Dinner