We’ve seen a Disney animated classic, a Cathy Rigby musical, an NBC live TV musical and a Johnny Depp drama that all involve the story of Peter Pan. What else can possibly be done with this character we know too well? “Pan” dares to answer that by going the prequel route with the tale of young Peter’s first adventures in Neverland.
All of the elements were in place for something special: 13-year-old Levi Miller, who was chosen from more than 4,000, set to shine as Peter. The multi-talented Hugh Jackman taking-on the villainous role of Blackbeard the Pirate. And Joe Wright, the brilliant director of the thriller “Hanna” and the 2012 Keira Knightley version of “Anna Karenina”, steering this “Jolly Roger”.
But when Warner Bros. released “Pan”‘s first trailer last November and then announced they were moving it out of the Summer season and into Fall, I knew that wasn’t a good sign. It turns out I was right. “Pan” is a consistently underwhelming and weak effort that never comes close to reaching the second star to the right.
Things don’t get off to a great start, as Peter, who was abandoned by his mother (Amanda Seyfried has little more than a cameo), lives at an all-boys orphanage in London during the height of WWII. One night, he and many others are magically taken from their beds by pirates to become “The Lost Boys” on a ship set for Neverland. When they arrive and are greeted by Blackbeard, Jackman and the others are singing the classic Nirvana anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. As bizarre and confusing as this scene is to watch, it’s one of “Pan”’s only legitimate surprises.
Wright makes some other interesting decisions, mostly involving the visuals, and the results are largely unimpressive. As for the performances – Miller is not as likeable a Peter as he should be, and at times I simply couldn’t make-out what he was saying due to a strong British accent. Jackman’s Blackbeard is a mix of Willy Wonka and another cinematic pirate – Captain Jack Sparrow, as he delivers some quick and quirky one-liners. He does have a few solid early scenes, but once he, Peter, and a young and goofy Hook (Garrett Hedlund in a carrer-low) meet-up with Rooney Mara‘s Tiger Lily, the rest of the film plays-out in a dull and straightforward fashion. Oh – there are action scenes – including multiple sword fights and ship races – but the uninspired results are anything but swashbuckling fun.
Where were the crocodiles when we needed them? On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Pan” gets a D+.
Running Time: 111 min.