Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Hook

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, May 28, 2000

When it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go…
What if it’s the pilot’s time to go?

Special features

Cast Information4
Related Trailers4

Peter Pan grew up and became a corporate raider with two kids. If this were a true extension of Peter Pan, he probably has two mistresses on the side and he might be a serial killer. But instead he’s just a poor imitation of a business geek.

DirectorSteven Spielberg
WritersJ. M. Barrie, James V. Hart, Nick Castle, Malia Scotch Marmo
Movie Rating5
Transfer Quality8
Overall Rating6
  • Enhanced Widescreen

In “Hook”, Peter Pan grows up, joins the business world, and ignores his wife and kids. That part is fairly realistic. The movie also shows a greater knowledge of the source material elsewhere as well. Probably the main problem I have with it is found on the blurb on the back cover: “A classic tale updated for children of all ages.” In other words, it was watered down. Pan wasn’t a children’s story. In order to present it as a children’s story, the edge has to be taken off of it. And I’m not talking about the scary scenes or the crocodile or the evil Hook: those are all kept for “children’s” versions. What has to be taken out is the fear of growing up, the fear of responsibility, and the fear of dying. Those are apparently not suitable topics for children’s viewing.

“Hook” is a fun, funny, well-acted movie that probably comes the closest as any Pan movie I’ve seen to the original, but it still falls short, especially its choice of happy endings. A friend of mine said of “Hook” that it got her into reading more Barrie because “it wasn't that I loved the movie, but I sensed a mythos behind the story, and I wanted to find out what it was.”

The acting by the kids was very good. Dustin Hoffman was the best Captain Hook ever, Bob Hoskins played a great Smee. Robin Williams was Robin Williams. And Julia Roberts did a great job as Tinkerbell, the fairy who was Wendy’s rival for Peter Pan. Also, look for some cameos by Phil Collins, David Crosby, Glenn Close, Jimmy Buffet, and Lonnie Burr (remember “The Mickey Mouse Club”?).

The real meat of the movie starts when they reach Neverland, of course, and it is a sight. It looks pretty much like Barrie described it except that the Indians and Pirates aren’t out killing each other. The best part of the movie is the pirates, the pirate ship, and the Captain and his assistant. Dustin Hoffman is Captain Hook, the most evil rogue of the seven seas. He treats his men like the dogs they are and they love him for it. And his assistant, Smee, played by Bob Hoskins, is just the toady that Smee was, the kind of person who would travel the seven seas after Hook’s death and pretend to be “the only man who James Hook feared.”

The movie blends reality with Barrie’s fantasy: Wendy is real, Moira is real, so is Peter Pan. And so is James Matthew Barrie, their neighbor who wrote down the stories that Wendy would tell about Peter Pan. And the “orphan’s hospital” that Barrie left the rights to “Peter and Wendy” to, turns out, in the movie, to have been also a place where “Grandma Wendy” saved the Lost Boys by giving them families: the Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.

Many parts of the movie ring true when compared to the book. That Peter would forget everything before his current “game” of living life and growing up. Peter always did forget everything in the past. He’s stuck at this game for a lot longer than one might expect, but that can be forgiven since there otherwise would not be a movie. Wendy found him American parents, probably so that Robin Williams wouldn’t have to do a British accent for the movie. Tinkerbell really was in love with Peter. (“You couldn’t go half the way around,” said Wendy to Tinkerbell. “You stupid ass,” said Tinkerbell.)

Life was cheap in Neverland, and memories were short. Banning’s comparison to “Lord of the Flies preschool” fits Barrie’s description of Neverland perfectly. Some of this, faded, comes through in the film. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the remaining darkness in the film is through the influence of Nick Castle. Castle was the ‘shape’ in Hallowe’en and assisted on such movies as “Dark Star” and “Escape from New York”, but has since been doing somewhat more lighthearted fare.

The DVD has a very nice transfer and sound, but few extras: just the theatrical trailer, an extra trailer for “Jumanji”, and cast info. It doesn’t even contain languages other than English, let alone some of the wonderful extras that DVDs are known for. It lists “production notes”; these are just a couple of paragraphs in the insert, not on the DVD.

If you haven’t seen it and you’re a fan of Peter Pan the book/play, I recommend seeing it.

Recommendation: Rent

DirectorSteven Spielberg
WritersJ. M. Barrie, James V. Hart, Nick Castle, Malia Scotch Marmo
ActorsRobin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith
Spoken languageEnglish
Special FeaturesCast Information, Related Trailers, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed Hook…

For more about Dustin Hoffman, you might also be interested in Wag the Dog and All the President’s Men.

For more about J. M. Barrie, you might also be interested in Peter Pan.

For more about Steven Spielberg, you might also be interested in 1941.

For more about whimsical, you might also be interested in City of Lost Children, King of Hearts, L.A. Story, The Wizard of Oz, Yellow Submarine, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, Moonshadow, Oddville! and Land of Nod, Peter Pan, The Complete Lewis Carroll, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The World of Pooh.