Hook (1991)


What if Peter Pan grew up? Steven Spielberg explores the question in his lavish production of Hook, the story of an adult Peter Pan (Robin Williams) who must return to Neverland to rescue his children from the dastardly Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). But at first, Peter doesn’t even believe in Neverland anymore, or that he is the famous character in J.M. Barries’ books. He’s so preoccupied with his career as a cutthroat corporate titan, that he’s forgotten all about his formative years. But after his children are snatched in the middle of the night, and with the help of a drunken hallucination that may or may not be the real Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts), Peter finds himself back among pirates, mermaids, and a gang of Lost Boys who have to teach him how to reconnect with the magic of childhood in order to battle Captain Hook once more.

In its broad strokes, Hook is solid, escapist fun, supported by beautiful sets, whimsical effects, and charismatic performances from Williams, Hoffman, and co-star Bob Hoskins as Hook’s dim-witted sycophant, Smee. Maggie Smith makes a welcome appearance as ‘Granny Wendy’ and John Williams’ score is as exciting and emotional as anything the maestro ever delivered for Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker. With all these sterling elements, Hook should truly soar. But it’s weighed down by a nagging sentimentality about fatherhood and a goofy reverence for childhood.

I know childhood is at the heart of Peter Pan mythology, but in Hook, it lays shaky groundwork for Peter’s adventure. Why must he shed his maturity and re-discover childhood to save his children? Scenes of the Lost Boys training Peter for the big fight with Hook by launching him in a giant slingshot or engaging in an epic food fight are cute — but idiotic. Hook’s storytelling lacks verisimilitude — it’s simply too precious and willfully charming to take at all seriously. There’s a moment early in the film when Peter reaches out for his children, who hang in a net aboard Hook’s ship. Hook promises he’ll let the children go if Peter can just reach the net. But he can’t reach it. And Captain Hook decides to cancel his big fight with Peter Pan, since Peter’s clearly incapable of… what? Flying, food fights, and playing? The need to reconnect with his inner child should have been shoved into the subtext of Hook — not made the single, shining, overriding mission.

I can also gripe about the unnecessary casting of Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell and the unnecessary death of a Lost Boy character during the climax. But for all its issues, Hook is still entertaining. It helps tremendously that Williams and Hoffman find the right balance of humor and sincerity in their performances (Hoffman steals the show, really). And Spielberg, even with shaky material, knows how to stage a crowd-pleasing event movie like no one else. His trip to Neverland is a beautiful one, even if it’s destined to fade from our movie-going memory.

With Charlie Korsmo, Arthur Malet, and cameos by Phil Collins and Glenn Close.

Oscar Nominations: Best Art Direction, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Makeup, Song (“When You’re Alone”)

Share Button