What to Watch This Weekend – Peter Pan & Wendy

Peter Pan & Wendy is the story of a young woman navigating life’s progression. Wendy Moira Angela Darling (Ever Anderson) is happy right where she is. She spends evenings regaling her younger brothers John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe) with tales of adventure while residing in London. Unbeknownst to her, the hero of those stories—Peter Pan (Alexander Molony)—has been listening. When Peter learns that his favorite storyteller is leaving for boarding school, he whisks the Darling children to Neverland with the help his fairy companion Tinkerbell (Yara Shahidi). Upon arrival, they encounter the vindictive pirate Captain Hook (Jude Law) who is hellbent on settling a score with Peter once and for all. Caught in the middle, Wendy must find a way to keep her brothers safe while wrestling with her own perceptions about growing up.

What works in Peter Pan & Wendy is the masterful blending of spirit and adaptation. Reflecting on either the 1904 play by J.M. Barrie or the 1953 animated feature, Peter Pan is the epitome of a strong message riddled with problematic execution and representation. At its core, Peter Pan is a tale of maturity—the universal truth that we all must age, but we are also the authors of that transition. With this in mind, writer/director David Lowery (The Old Man and the Gun, The Green Knight) wisely focuses on Wendy as the central character. Her journey is one of self-discovery as she weighs the pros and cons of staying young forever and its implications. This quandary inherent to the original tale shines through with a modern sensibility. At the same time, Lowery modifies and corrects certain racist and sexist undertones that have marred previous versions. Finally, Lowery imbues a bit of playful world-building by adding a bit more to the lore behind Pan and Hook’s tumultuous rivalry.

Traditionalists may not enjoy Peter Pan & Wendy as much as others. With the changes Lowery has implemented, Peter morphs into a childish brat—the counterbalance to the authoritative Hook. This alteration supplants Peter as the protagonist with Wendy. Here, Peter is a symbol of precocious youth both for better and worse. This creative decision may feel reductive, but it serves to reinforce the theme: Peter Pan isn’t a hero, but rather the manifestation of an idealized wish that seems appealing from afar, and far more scrupulous after thoughtful consideration. In previous adaptations, Wendy goes on one last adventure where she’s saved from pirates; here she yearns to be young forever and Peter is a cautionary representation of what that could entail. This update makes the narrative far more engaging, but it is a (healthy) departure from the past.

Peter Pan & Wendy is the perfect film for family movie night. The yarn of Peter Pan persists because of its core relatable story. With Lowery’s iteration, he shows reverence for the work of Barrie and Disney while providing enough new magic to completely justify a retelling that will warm the hearts of many. Highly recommended.

Recommended if you Enjoyed: Pete’s Dragon, Mulan, Enchanted

Peter Pan & Wendy is now available to stream exclusively through Disney+   

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