Magical May Review: Hook

Year: 1991
Runtime: 182 minutes
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: J.M. Barrie (book), James V. Hart, Nick Castle, Malia Scotch Marmo
Actors: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Caroline Goodall, Charlie Korsmo, Amber Scott, Phil Collins, Arthur Malet, Dante Basco

By Joan Amenn

Well, this was awkward. If there is a list somewhere (and there must be) of problematic films that kids enjoy but adults cringe over, this must be in the top five. There are some moments in “Hook” (1991) that sparkle with magic like a certain fairy’s wings but these don’t completely compensate for the many scenes that seem to drag the film down like it was caught in a crocodile’s jaws. Maybe you need to be a child to see past those or maybe you just need to see this in the company of children.

At any rate, perhaps we need to acknowledge that all cinematic geniuses deserve a break when they offer a mediocrity from time to time. But it must also be acknowledged that many small boys (and I know a few) actually were captivated by the continuing adventures of Peter Pan (Robin Williams)versus the eponymous pirate of the film’s title. Peter is now all grown up, an event he spent considerable time and energy defying in the original story. This of course is a key bone of contention for anyone who loved the book by J.M. Barrie as a child. The fact that Williams is probably the only actor who could even attempt to play an eternal boy child as an uber-stressed man child doesn’t mean he should have attempted it. Clearly, the friendship between him and director Spielberg had a lot to do in swaying both into taking this project on.

Oh, but there are some lovely moments. Maggie Smith as an elderly Wendy is given a grand entrance and she is marvelous, as always. She speaks to Peter with a slight catch in her voice as if to suggest she would gladly soar out of her bedroom window and straight on to morning once again, if only she could. Bob Hoskins as the second in command of Hook is sheer comic perfection and if anything, an improvement on the animated version. And then there is Hook himself, played with a scene chewing relentlessness by Dustin Hoffman that seems to vacillate between enjoyment and despair at being cast in this film. The less said about Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell the better as there has been enough commentary about her painful miscasting over the years. Even Williams can’t alleviate her horrific line readings in their scenes together.

The most fun comes when Peter returns to the Lost Boys only to find that they have a new leader in the trendily coiffed Rufio (Dante Basco). Their slam session of insults hurled at each other is the highlight of the film. Williams is finally allowed to do what he does best extemporaneously, and Rufio seems to be able to keep up with him, for a little while. Who wouldn’t want to try to verbally duel with Robin Williams, just to hear what he would come up with?

But as much fun as this all is, the plot of Peter being a terrible dad to his kids and the lasting trauma of parental neglect torpedo “Hook” and send her to the bottom with the mermaids. There is magic to be found in this film but you’ll need a patient finger on the remote button to skip to the good parts.

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