Say what you want about “Hook.” Many people do. And many movie fans love it because it’s been a part of their childhood. Those who didn’t have the fortune of watching “Hook” as a child consider the 1991 Peter Pan throwback to be a gaudy Spielberg misfire dripping with sap. By virtue of nostalgia, “Hook” is still great. But as a fan of JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan” novel, and the mythos in general, “Hook” is a solid effort, that still manages to pack in the entertainment at all corners. True, it’s by no means a mastepiece with cloying acting by most of the child stars, and some odd casting. I mean, bringing aboard Robin Williams as the dashing Neverland warrior is still poor casting, and while Williams does his best, the movie suffers with him on board.
I love the notion that Peter Pan abandoned Neverland and eternal youth for the sake of finding a life in reality that could grant him fulfillment as it did Wendy. Along the way, like most adults, Peter became so entrenched in responsibilities and obligations that he lost sight of his children, and why he wanted a family in the first place. Only when they’re kidnapped by the vengeful Captain Hook, does he finally have to go back to Neverland and re-claim his youth to be able to fight Captain Hook. I’m not sure why Steven Spielberg didn’t just provide an up front adaptation of the Barrie novel. It would have worked wonders as a fantasy epic. But since Spielberg is one to think outside the box, he re-imagines this world, and presents us with a hero who has to earn back his title as the warrior or Neverland, if he wants to save the day and his family. For Spielberg, “Hook” is probably his most heavy handed and obvious morality tales. And while typically I’m a fan and admitted apologist, with “Hook” it doesn’t often work.
That’s because the message becomes so painfully clear from the outset. The child in you never dies. And in order for Peter to defeat the ultimate adult, he has to convert back to a child once again and re-claim his children. The moments of Neverland fun are still some of the most entertaining moments in fantasy cinema, with Peter learning how to imagine eating with the Lost Boys, as well as trying to win back his spot as the leader of the Lost Boys from the valiant Rufio. Dante Basco is one of the few actors who could stand up next to Robin Williams and hold his own. And as the rebellious warrior of the group who took over for Pan, he becomes his competition and inevitably the kind of person Peter once was and hopes to be again. Rufio is one of the most underrated characters of the fantasy world, a funny, and admirable hero who has a lot of heart and courage, and never bows down to Hook, even when it becomes apparent that he’s going to lose. Spielberg plays on the father and son dichotomy a lot with Rufio and Peter, presenting Peter with a character he sees himself in.
And like most relationships, the son begins to teach the father how to appreciate life again. One of the many caveats to “Hook” is Spielberg’s forced emphasis on the Peter and Tinkerbell relationship. The unrequited love angle between the pair ultimately feels forced and saccharine, especially for a film that relies on sap to move its narrative across. If Tinkerbell could become human size, why didn’t she do it in the beginning and ask Peter for a date or something? In either case, the forced importance on Tinkerbell feels like an obligation since Julia Roberts was a huge star in the nineties. Thankfully it doesn’t mar an otherwise solid and creative tribute to JM Barrie’s story about eternal youth. “Hook” is still a favorite, in spite of the bile it receives; you just have to appreciate its creative angle toward Peter Pan and his world.