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A Study in Spielberg: Hook (1991)

14 Apr

Hook

Before he started making grown-up movies, many saw Steven Spielberg as a living, breathing Peter Pan, a man who never grew up and seemed to be making great movies for the young at heart.  Yet, by the beginning of the 1990s, Spielberg had grown up; he had made pictures for adults; and he got married and had kids of his own.  In that spirit, it is likely that something of the energy of his earlier pictures seemed to have gone out.  By this point he seemed to have passed the point where he could effectively tell the story of Peter Pan.

Hook sounds like one of those ideas that probably seemed interesting in a story conference but seemed less inspiring as it got closer to production.  What would happen if Peter Pan grew up?  That’s heavy material to deal with, and in fact much of Hook is so weighed down by dealing with this problem that it ultimately saps the fun out of the first half of the picture.  My first problem with Hook is that Peter Pan hasn’t just put away childish things, he’s forgotten all of the adventures of his early life as if he has amnesia.  The second problem is that in forgetting his adventures in Neverland, he’s grown up and become a workaholic jerk.

The rest of the movie isn’t much better.  Neverland looks spectacular from the air, but on the ground it looks like overgrown vegetation on a studio backlot.  The Lost Boys are irritating, they look like the ensemble of a Nickelodeon kid’s show.  And I wasn’t too fond of Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell.  In fact, the whole production seems lead-footed.  The pacing is way too slow, and the movie just doesn’t seem all that magical.

The one element that I did like was Captain Hook.  As played by Dustin Hoffman, he seems to be having a grand time.  I love his imperious nature as his first mate Smee (Bob Hoskins) starts the day by introducing him as if he were a rock star.  I loved all the scenes aboard his ship, they had all the spirit that I wish the rest of the movie had.

Those scenes are few and far between.  For the rest of the time I just got bored.  There’s also some fun bits in the third act but we have to wade through so much laborious plot to get Peter back to Neverland and back into his former mind that you have to wonder why the movie didn’t start in Neverland.  Which begs the question: Why didn’t Spielberg just make Peter Pan?  Why weigh this story down with such a grim concept.  I don’t want Peter Pan to grow up.  That’s why we’ve been reading this book for 100 years, it’s about the joy of keeping the grand adventures of our childhood and never growing up.  Hook is a movie that doesn’t seem to know that.

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