Some 80 years after Peter Pan’s famous adventures, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up has grown up into a corporate lawyer and neglectful father who has forgotten his youthful adventures.
Abu Hamza pinup Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) concocts an elaborate plan to lure Peter (Robin Williams) back to Neverland by abducting his children and turning them into mini-Hooks. The hodgepodge scheme has to be pointlessly drawn out to allow Peter time to become re-acquainted with the Lost Boys and rediscover his former abilities.
Sailing past The Lost World: Jurassic Park to the title of Worst Spielberg Film, Hook may also be the movie which does the worst job of capturing the essence of an established character. Pan’s defining trait is his eternal youth, so making him into a stiff adult with no sense of fun completely removes his essence. And in any case resting the film on the premise “what if Peter Pan has grown up to be an asshole?” seems to be doomed for failure.
The film pays only the loosest tribute to the tale’s literary setting in England. The ageing Wendy (Maggie Smith) is English, but this Peter was raised in the US, and almost every other character, except the evil Hook of course, has an American accent. They even put baseball into one scene in Neverland, a crime comparable to putting a KFC in Narnia.
It’s unclear why this film is called Hook at all, when it’s about Peter from beginning to end, and the titular Hook is sorely lacking in the character department. In fact he has only one recognisable hook: his hook. The story is about Peter learning to be a decent father, but hammering Peter Pan into the mold of Mary Poppins is a terrible idea. Perhaps a more apt title would have been Peter Down the Pan.
While Hoffman is abysmal as the title character, offering the loosest attempt at an English accent, he at least looks like he’s having more fun than the audience. Williams phones it in, making a film arguably as bad as Dead Poets Society, but admittedly for very different reasons. Julia Roberts is tragically mis-cast as Tinker Bell, but comparing her Golden Raspberry nomination to Hoffman’s inexplicable Golden Globe nod, it’s hard not to get a discreet scent of sexism.
The film is unnecessarily long and suffers from leaden pacing, mainly due to the insurmountable flaws inherent in its premise. In the original tale, Peter flies into the Darlings’ room and spas with his shadow, before flying off with Wendy and co to Neverland. It captivates the imaginations of children from the get-go.
When you make Peter into a corporate lawyer this sense of fun is totally removed. In this film, we don’t see him fly until an hour and 40 minutes in. And even once he does, the sight of a middle aged man in a Robin Hood outfit fighting a bumbling pirate isn’t as exciting as the David vs Goliath tale of the original story.
The horribly written script is littered with creaking sentimentality and there are frequent attempts at jokes which never never land. The nauseating performances of the film’s kids, from Peter’s offspring to The Boys that Make You Throw Up, at least offer a plausible explanation for the decision to cast an adult in the lead role.
The film’s only strengths are the large and visually interesting (if fake-looking) sets and elements of the prop design. But these are betrayed by the low quality activity taking place on them. It’s no wonder Hook got Peter panned. Would I re-watch this? Never, never.