If you want a telling of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan without the offhand racism Disney (unwittingly, I suppose) injected into the story in 1953, watch Hook (1991). Granted, it is more of a modern telling of the tale. The original is about the thrill of getting to be young forever, and to carry on in a commiserate manner. Peter is “the boy who wouldn’t grow up.” Because Disney mainly caters to children, you can see why such material would be appealing. Yet, I suppose the logical question in the wake of this would be what would happen to Peter if he did grow up, which is what people do? That is what Hook intends to explore, but it ends up being more than this, which makes it worth your time.
The Peter Pan in Hook is Peter Banning (Robin Williams). This is not the famous comedic actor pretending to be a child, though he has performed such a role. Instead, Peter is a functioning adult, a corporate lawyer in San Francisco, not Neverland. He is married to his wife, Moira (Caroline Goodall), and together they have a young son who is into baseball named Jack (Charlie Korsmo), and a daughter named Maggie (Amber Scott), who is at that tender young age where precociousness is cute. Peter has forgotten about the carefreeness of his youth, and he is now a workaholic who misses Jack’s baseball games. This puts a strain on the father and son relationship. Under this cloud, the Bannings travel to London to visit Moira’s grandmother, Wendy Darling (Maggie Smith). Yes, that Wendy Darling. On their first night, they attend a dinner in Wendy’s honor at a local hospital to which she has been a patron. Upon their return, they find the house ransacked, and a ransom note from somebody claiming to be Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). At first, Peter turns to the authorities, but it is Wendy who tells him what he must do. Because Peter has apparently repressed any memory of his former life, it takes a visit from Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts), who kidnaps him to Neverland, to reveal that it is all real. This Tinkerbell, by the way, can talk, and is obviously in love with Peter. When he comes to, it is in the pirate village ruled over by Captain Hook. Quickly disguising himself, Peter makes his way to his long-time nemesis, who recognizes the grown-up Peter if not the behavior. Nonetheless, Peter attempts to reason with the pirate, which disappoints Captain Hook that Peter has become so frail. Jack and Maggie are there, too, but are bound. Captain Hook tries to give Peter a chance by telling the former flier that if he can swoop up touch his children above, he can save them. Among many things, one preventing Peter from doing so is his fear of flying. Captain Hook has almost had enough until Tinkerbell intervenes, telling the pirate that she can have Peter back to his old self in three days. Hence, she takes Peter back to the hideout of the Lost Boys, much to Jack’s disappointment. Once there, we discover that in Peter’s absence, a new leader of the band of outcast young ones has been appointed, Rufio (Dante Basco). When Rufio sees the hapless Peter, he does not believe it is the former Pan. As a result, a period of hazing occurs where the boys all harass Peter while Tinkerbell tries to convince them that he is the one-time ruler of the Lost Boys. What turns the tide of opinion is one of their number, Pockets (Isaiah Robinson), finally saying that he believes, and Peter claiming that all he wants is help in retrieving his children. This last task will involve them trying to teach him to be the Pan once more, which the adult version seems too old to accomplish. While his difficult training takes place, Captain Hook begins to warm up to Peter’s daughter and son, particularly Jack. Captain Hook hopes to turn the loyalties of the kids, thus further defeating his opponent who is supposed to run on happiness. This comes in the form of Captain Hook letting Jack instruct the pirates on how to play baseball. Then, with Peter having snuck into town with Tinkerbell as part of his training, he sees Jack hit the homerun that he failed to see Jack hit in San Francisco. Peter also witnesses Jack receiving the fatherly attention from Captain Hook, which further dejects him. The main obstacle is flying. As he returns to the Lost Boys base, he notices his shadow moving independently of himself, and he follows it. It leads him to the original shelter that Peter had occupied with Wendy and her siblings, and helps him remember not only his past, but the joy he felt with Jack’s birth. It causes him to lift into the air, much to the delight of the Lost Boys, including the now convinced Rufio. Now it is time for the Lost Boys to fight, and they succeed in defeating Captain Hook’s crew. Unfortunately, Rufio dies dueling Captain Hook. Still, Jack is sufficiently impressed to agree to go back with Peter, as does Maggie. What stalls their departure is Captain Hook threatening to repeatedly come after his family. Their clashing of blades ends with Captain Hook being eaten by the reanimated corpse of the long-feared crocodile he thought stuffed and on display in town. Leaving another of the Lost Boys in charge, Peter returns to London and his grateful family, having learned to appreciate them more.
There are some deep themes in Hook, more so than the 1953 Peter Pan. In the older one, it is more about the dream and romance of flying away to a mythical land full of adventures where you can be eternally young. There is nothing wrong with such fantasies, but Hook is more honest in that it suggests that the danger is being too caught up in them. There is an interesting metaphor used to drive home this point. Captain Hook has a room full of broken clocks. The ticking reminds him of the crocodile, of which he is terrified. In response, he takes every time piece he finds and destroys it. In wooing Jack to his side, Captain Hook takes the boy into the room that all the shattered clocks are in and lets him further batter them. While doing so, Jack mutters about all the pain Peter has caused him. In addition to the perceived timelessness of the place, the idea is that here one does not have to worry. Of course, one does not need Catholicism to see the flaw with this reasoning, but it helps. There is only one to whom time has no meaning, and that is God. Attempts to mimic His power are frowned upon. Getting old and growing up are a part of life, and it is how God orders our existence. Even more specific to Faith, though, is the reconciliation between Jack and Peter. Captain Hook would say that in order to feel better, all Jack needs to do is bust a few clocks with a baseball bat. Like Neverland itself, this is avoiding the problem. Sometimes, dads have to miss a baseball game, as hard as that is for the son to understand and the dad to endure. Faith teaches us the importance of reconciliation, and the movie underscores how extra vital this is between children at that age and their parents. Peter remembering his desire to be a dad, and achieving it is the thought that lifts him into the air. For us in the real world, similar thoughts with our Father in Heaven can leads us to our own Neverland, though without that mythical locale’s perils.
For the longest time, I could have sworn that Hook was on Disney+, but I guess that would be wrong. It is because I assumed it is a Disney movie that I thought this way. In any case, it is a sweet movie that I would recommend for any audience. It is not currently available for free on any streaming service. Still, it is worth the couple bucks for a rental on Amazon Prime if you are tired of the usual run-of-the-mill streaming offerings.