Classic Intel: Hook - DVD Review

'Ironically for a story focused upon the adult life of Peter Pan, several elements within Hook have not aged well'.

When Hook received its UK cinema release in 1992 I was seven-and-a-half years old, perhaps the perfect age to behold in wonder everything that Steven Spielberg's return visit to Neverland had to offer. But, much like the saying about never meeting your heroes, perhaps it's sometimes better not to revisit beloved childhood films. Twenty-two years later, whilst certainly not unbearable, there are times whilst watching Hook where childlike ignorance would be bliss.

Ironically for a story focused upon the adult life of Peter Pan (Robin Williams), the boy who famously never wanted to grow old, several elements within Hook have not aged well. The main offenders are undoubtedly Spielberg's obnoxious update of the Lost Boys. Looking and sounding like a production of Oliver! sponsored by Benetton, the exaggerated performances and cute-meets-cool costume designs of the Lost Boys feel incredibly dated, although it's hard to think they ever truly worked.

In contrast to these nauseating prepubescents, Charlie Korsmo as Jack, Peter's son, gives a pleasingly genuine performance for much of the film, only veering into less satisfying pantomimic territory during the final act. Amber Scott as daughter Maggie, however, is considerably less impressive, feeling consistently artificial and unpleasantly saccharine.

It's therefore largely down to the several big names in Spielberg's cast to hold things together. Williams does well transforming from the workaholic corporate lawyer Banning to the impish, fantastical Pan, reigning in his performance remarkably well for much of the running time with only a single scene where he unleashes his inner child a little too vigorously. Less consistent is Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell, doing well when at her most fairy-like but making things far too heavy in the character's more human scenes. Maggie Smith as the aged Wendy is reliably strong, but is only really given one or two scenes in which to shine.

As Hook's title suggests, however, the real star is the eponymous pirate captain, brought to the screen through an unforgettable larger-than-life performance from Dustin Hoffman. Comprehensively excellent and completely invested in the role, Hoffman is ably supported throughout by Bob Hoskins as bosun Smee, clearly having a whale of a time conjuring a gleefully slippery performance. Without a doubt, Hook is always at its very best when Hoffman and Hoskins share the screen, providing all of the film's most memorable and successful moments.

Considering Spielberg was reportedly unhappy with how Hook turned out, it's clear in hindsight that many of the film's most prominent shortcomings come directly from choices the director makes. The concept, though, is solid: as far as an unofficial sequel to J. M. Barrie's original Peter Pan novel, this delivers an engaging and imaginative narrative with enough to appeal to both the kids in the audience and their parents.

It is Spielberg's execution, however, that is decidedly uneven. Hoffman's Captain Hook is really quite menacing, shooting and torturing members of his own crew without conscience; and yet the pirates he leads feel neutered and safe, as if they've wandered off a Disneyland ride. Neverland too at times provides exactly the engrossing fantasy setting a film such as this needs, but at others feels too much like a collection of half-realised ideas jumbled together. Spielberg's lack of control is never more apparent than in Hook's excessive running time of almost two and a half hours, which could easily have been trimmed by at least thirty minutes to tighten the whole film up considerably.

Whilst revisiting Hook perhaps offers more to enjoy than is at first apparent - the performances from Hoffman and Hoskins alone making it well worth a watch - it's fair to say that this never comes close to Spielberg at his best. Returning to Neverland with Peter Pan simply shouldn't be as frustrating and laborious as Hook at times turns out to be.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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