Peter Banning is a your classic workaholic father. When he travels to England with his family to visit the woman who adopted him so many years ago his children are kidnapped by a magical pirate and Peter must face his past and destiny as the real Peter Pan the story-books were based upon.
It’s time for another of my little reminisces about my childhood and a film I have watched about a thousand and one times. When I think of the cliche’ workaholic father I think of Tim Allen in “The Santa Clause” and Robin Williams in “Hook.” I’m sure it was a tired cliche before then but I was too young to know.
The themes of this movie resonate quite deep within me. It’s weird to say that about a film that that has fat kid roll down a gangplank and bash into people like the boulder in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but, as I think about the lines that have stuck in my brain, attitudes I have adopted, and values I have incorporated into my being, a lot of them stem from “Hook.”
The first of these is the theme of growing up. I love me a movie about growing old, realizing what is truly valuable and understanding the nature of time and what it does to us time bound humans. I don’t really know how much of this is touched on in the original Peter Pan stories or animated film or plays because I have never read nor watched them but it is one of the aspects of “Hook” that makes it hold up over the years.
This theme may not be super obvious to a kid and was certainly lost on me as a child but the whole film is really about Peter (Robin Williams, “The Fisher King”) reconciling the two parts of himself; the child who was Peter Pan, and the adult, Peter Banning. As a child he never wanted to grow up but as an adult he has so lost touch with his inner child that he doesn’t even remember Neverland. He is a bifurcated man who needs healing.
As Peter is learning to remember what it means to be a kid his son Jack is finding out what it means to grow up. He’s learning that playing pirate all day may sound like fun for a time and it may seem that adults are unwilling to make time for him but in reality our choices have consequences and sometimes being a grown up means recognizing that your dad loves you even if he can’t be there as much as he wants.
Of course as a child, I didn’t appreciate this at all. I just loved the fun of this film. I loved the sword fight between hook and Rufio, the food fight, the bangarang and the golden sword of pan. This movie is so 90s that a 90s kid like me can’t help but love the inclusion of skateboards, spiky hair, and that most revered of all Saturday morning cartoon hero qualities, Attitude. I’m not sure “Hook” would play as well to a kid today but I loved it and still do, even as cringe at its lesser moments.
Definitely, Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell is one of the most annoying things in the film. She isn’t composited well and at times it feels like they barely tried. It think I would have preferred if she had been just a twinkle of light the whole time, as she is during certain parts of the film.
The child acting leaves a lot to be desired but that won’t surprise anyone that remembers old Nickelodeon shows like “Salute My Shorts” or movies like “The Sandlot” or “Heavyweights.” Even as a kid I couldn’t stand the actor who plays Jack, although revisiting as an adult has revealed that he actually does quite well in some difficult scenes.
If the child acting is just so-so, the rest of the adult cats is simply magic. Robin Williams really gives everything he has to both characters, Peter Banning and Peter Pan, who couldn’t be more different. Banning is fat and tired, barely keeping up with the Lost Boys, and while dedicated to saving his kids, couldn’t believe less in the whole Peter Pan thing. He’s a classic cynic. However, once he’s Peter Pan he is full of life, excitement, and the light in his eyes shine with hope and wild imagination. It isn’t easy to play both of those roles and make them feel motivated, connected, yet dramatically different.
Luckily, he’s not the only one pulling his weight. One of the greatest over-the-top villain performances of all time is given by Dustin Hoffman (“Straw Dogs”) as Capt. James Hook. Cruel, petty, funny, manipulative, and cowardly. He’s everything you want from a cartoon come to life and more.
A lot of this film is silly kid’s fun but every once in a while an especially poignant line or thought will stick out so I’ll just leave you with this one. When Banning has hung up his sword and tights, Wendy (Maggie Smith, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) says “no more adventures, Peter?” To which he replies. “Oh no. To Live. To Live would be an awfully great adventure.” This is a line that I remember often when I feel downtrodden, depressed, and like there’s no point n trying anymore. It reminds me that life is an adventure worth chasing down with every fiber of my being even when things are hard because that’s just how adventures are.
Review Written By: