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2003’s PETER PAN ($27) is a sumptuous adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s classic fantasy work about the adventures of mischievous young boy, who can not only fly, but also battles pirates, and above all else, refuses to grow up. Set in the Victorian period, PETER PAN opens in the London household of the Darling family; where young Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd-Wood) likes to tell adventurous stories to her two brothers John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell). Unbeknownst to the Darling children is the fact that Wendy’s stories have caught the ear of the adventure loving Peter Pan, who likes to listen to Wendy’s tales while hovering outside the nursery window. However, when Darling children are faced with change and the prospect of growing up, Peter offers to take all three of them to Neverland, where Wendy can serve mother figure and chief storyteller to Peter’s band of Lost Boys. Of course, things aren’t completely rosy in Neverland, with Peter and the Lost Boys repeatedly facing off against Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) and his pirate crew.

This superior adaptation of PETER PAN is certainly no Disney movie, as it carries a great deal of emotional depth and doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of the story. I should also point out that this film is also a marvel of production design, which not only beautifully recreates Victorian London; it also brings a very dreamlike quality to its version of Neverland. Additionally, the acting is really first rate, with Jason Isaacs shining not only in the broad villainous role of Captain Hook, but also as Wendy’s loving father Mr. Darling. Rachel Hurd-Wood also provides another terrific performance as Wendy and displays good chemistry Jeremy Sumpter’s delightful Peter Pan. The cast of PETER PAN also features Ludivine Sagnier (who makes a marvelous Tinkerbelle), Lynn Redgrave, Richard Briers, Olivia Williams, Geoffrey Palmer, Theodore Chester, Rupert Simonian, George MacKay, Harry Eden, Patrick Gooch, Lachlan Gooch, Carsen Gray and Bruce Spence.

Universal Studios Home Video has made PETER PAN available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is really terrific; reproducing the visual splendor of the movie as best accomplished under NTSC resolution. Sharpness and detail are pretty much excellent, with only the odd shot appearing a hair less detailed than the vast majority of the film. Colors are absolutely gorgeous; appearing vivid and richly saturated, which is occasionally taken to the extreme. Flesh tones maintain a very appealing quality, even when the rest of the palette pushes into the surreal. Black appear velvety, whites are crisp and the contrast is just fine. Shadow detail is very good for the darker sequences and picture generally produces a nice dimensional quality. The film elements are very clean and there is very little appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are very well concealed.

PETER PAN comes with an excellent sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that is a perfect complement to the film’s wonderful visuals. Aggressively mixed, all of the discrete channels are used to full advantage to bring the entire soundstage to life. Sound effects, both big and small, pan effortlessly between channels, while maintaining the cohesiveness of the film’s sonic environments. Action sequences are totally engaging and one really has to love the moments on the pirate ship with clanking swords and the blaring cannons that try unsuccessfully to hit the film’s rapidly flying hero. The bass channel is punchy, plus it produces a goodly amount of low rumble, which enhances the appearances of a certain reptile with a taste for Captain Hook. Musical fidelity is also terrific, with the film’s delightful score coming across in a full, rich manner. Dialogue is always completely understandable and the voices have a terrific sense of character. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. In terms of supplemental programming, the DVD contains more than its share of brief programs broken up into four sections. The Darling House section features a rather bittersweet Alternate Ending, a well as an amusing Deleted Scene. Me & My Shadow looks at the sequence with Peter and his shadow was created, while In The Dog House With Nana introduces the canines behind the Darling family "nurse." The Neverland Forest section features Explore the Forest, which is a brief look at the creation of one of the film’s primary sets. Tinkerbell: Behind the Fairy Dust provides an introduction to actress Ludivine Sagnier and how her performance was augmented with a CGI double, while I Do Believe in Fairies looks at how the other fairies in the film were created. Princess Tiger Lily provides a brief introduction to actress Carsen Gray.

The Black Castle section features Enter the Castle, which looks at the creation of the film’s creepiest set. Learning to Fly looks at the flying rigs and training that the actors underwent for the film’s flying sequences. The Mermaids Tale looks at the makeup and costumes applied to one the aquatic dangers of Neverland. Prompting for the DVD-ROM features can also be found in this section. The Pirates' Ship section features Board The Pirate Ship, a look at the pirate ship set. Through The Eyes Of Captain Hook is behind the scenes with Jason Isaacs. The Pirates vs. The Lost Boys provides a glimpse at the actors in these roles. The Lost Pirate Song features the prerecording of a song that was ultimately not filmed. 

The Home Under The Ground section features Dig Under the Home, a look at the creation of Peter’s underground lair. The Legacy of Pan is the longest program, which happens to be hosted by Sarah Ferguson, who discuses the history of J.M. Barrie’s classic fantasy work. The Duchess's Outtakes are a couple of minutes worth royal grade flubbing from the previous featurette. Lost Boys On The Set offers a brief glimpse of the actors portraying Peter’s Neverland compatriots. A couple of bonus trailers close out the extras.

As I stated above, 2003’s PETER PAN is a rather sumptuous adaptation of the classic fantasy, which brings a deeper and darker edge to the material than has been seen in previous screen incarnations. The widescreen DVD looks and sounds marvelous, plus it includes some enjoyable extras. If you are a fan of PETER PAN, then this is a DVD well worth acquiring. Recommended.



Peter Pan (Widescreen Edition) (2003)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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