Ever wondered just how Peter Pan got to Neverland? This adventure imagines a new origin story for JM Barrie’s beloved character that begins in London when a young woman (Amanda Seyfried) leaves her baby son on the doorstep of an orphanage with just a note and a necklace for him. Peter (Miller) is taken in and raised there, under the strict watch of mean nun Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke) as the bombs of World War II fall around them.
Barnabas isn’t the only person the orphans have to worry about, however, as Peter notices that some of the boys are disappearing in the middle of the night. It seems magical flying pirate ships are swooping in during the Blitz and snatching them as they sleep, and when Peter is captured he discovers they are being transported to a strange place called Neverland that is run by the tyrannical pirate Blackbeard (Jackman). He’s got all the little boys working in his mine, looking for magical fairy dust, so it is up to Peter to team up with another miner, James Hook (Hedlund) – yes, that Hook, still with two hands in this movie – and warrior Tiger Lily (Mara) to stop him.
Packed with adventures for Peter, this moves along at a brisk pace and sparkles with impressive CGI scenes of pirate ships navigating the skies above London, a lagoon of bewitching mermaids, and the fairy kingdom. Unfortunately, while there are many things to recommend this movie – including young Miller’s really likeable performance, and Jackman’s enjoyably villainous one – there are some odd notes to it that work against it, too.
Barrie purists will be upset that the story has been relocated to the 1940s (Barrie’s original writings featuring Pan were set at the turn of the century), but probably more jarring is a scene featuring all the kids singing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit to hail their slavemaster Blackbeard. While it’s rather fantastic in a weird sort of way, it sits as awkwardly as Hedlund’s stiff turn that seems to be a lumpen impersonation of Han Solo mixed with Errol Flynn. Perhaps he is trying for a quirky comic tone such as Johnny Depp’s bonkers Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean, but when everyone else is playing it darker it doesn’t work.
Kids, however, especially those a little too young to see Pirates Of The Caribbean or to know much about Peter Pan, will overlook these flaws and find much to enjoy. Mara makes Tiger Lily a tough fighter you really root for, and Miller and Jackman make terrific hero and villain respectively, and are great on screen together. There are some confusing plot points to be sure, but what kid, big or small, won’t be wowed by a giant flying boat, floating across a moonlit sky, or a pirate battle in a mythical land?
Is Pan suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Younger viewers (age 8 and under) may find Blackbeard frightening.
Some children will be upset that Peter is an orphan, and that he and the boys live without parents at the orphanage.
The scenes in which a magical tree tells the story of Peter’s mother may upset younger viewers