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Universal Studios Home Video presents

Peter Pan (2003) (2003)

Peter: Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me and you'll never, never have to worry about grownup things again.
Wendy: Never is an awfully long time.- Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood

Stars: Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jason Isaacs
Other Stars: Richard Briers, Olivia Williams, Lynn Redgrave, Ludivine Sagnier
Director: P.J. Hogan

MPAA Rating: PG for adventure action sequences and peril
Run Time: 01h:53m:17s
Release Date: 2004-05-03
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-A-A- C-


DVD Review

Peter Pan is one of the English language's most popular and enduring works for children, and, prior to last year, it had yet to be captured satisfactorily on film, despite the fact it has been made into a dozen movies and TV specials and a Broadway production. Heck, a boy has never even played the title role in a film version, and generations of boys have been troubled by their uncomfortable attraction to Mary Martin as the boy hero. Even the fairly charming Disney cartoon version has some pacing problems and, these days, some troubling racist content.

Thankfully, in 2003, CGI technology gave filmmakers the ability to bring J.M Barrie's novel to life like never (never) before, and a faithful script (co-written by director P.J. Hogan, and who would have guessed a guy known for romantic comedies could make a fantasy epic?) kept its spirit alive. The story is old hat, of course, one of those things kids are born knowing. Peter Pan is a boy who decided never to grow up, and he flits abut the magical island of Neverland with his pals the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell (French model Ludivine Sagnier), making life miserable for the dastardly Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs).

One night, after a fateful battle with his shadow, Peter finds himself in the Darling family nursery, where he meets Wendy, a girl he likes for reasons he can't explain (but they involve thimbles, in a metaphorical sense, I'm sure). He drags Wendy and her brothers off to Neverland for all sorts of adventures with pirates and mermaids and Indians and lessons about treasuring your youth that will fly over kids' heads but will make mom and dad misty-eyed.

This version of Pan works because Hogan and his team understand what the story is really about. More than the adventures and the fun, it's about that fearful moment when children realize they are going to grow up, and all that implies, and the dread and anticipation of what that will mean. Young stars Jeremy Sumpter (as Peter) and Rachel Hurd-Wood (as Wendy) are perfectly paired, and this version brings their adolescent longing to the fore, as both characters battle with growing up—one of them eager to do so quickly, the other to never do so at all. Isaacs makes a killer Hook, showy, but still subtle and menacing. And the special effects are used to serve the story, never to overpower it. The colorful backdrops of Neverland (including a bubblegum pink sky with clouds fluffy enough to walk on—literally) look a whole lot better than the bland set pieces that populated Hook. Unfortunately, there are a few digital Pans used for flying and sword-fighting scenes that look a bit rough, but it's still a far cry from Mary Martin, pushing 40, stunting the natural development of a generation of males with her pixie haircut and unnaturally shapely preadolescent boy's hips. Er... I assume.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Despite a challenging color palette and lots of fine detail to process, Peter Pan comes off nicely on DVD. From dark to light and subtle to garish, the colors are solid and saturated, and blacks are rich and deep. I noticed no edge enhancement and unobtrusive grain. The source print appears spotless, but the DVD master has introduced a bit of artifacting in some of the busier scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is similarly striking, with a broad front soundstage and frequent action in the surrounds. Dialogue always sounds clear and natural. Early sequences have some zing (including a zany scene in a bank early on that features some panning effects), but the track really gets going in Neverland, particularly during the battle scenes. Great surround tracks are the norm for new releases these days, and Peter Pan is no different.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Cat in the Hat, Two Brothers
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
11 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Bloopers
  2. Deleted pirate song
Extras Review: Peter Pan is a children's film, and thus it includes (appropriately enough) a bevy of kid-friendly extras, but none of them are very substantial, and the tedious menu navigation required to get at them will likely bore anyone young enough to actually enjoy them. Note that nothing adult-friendly, like commentaries, trailers, or real making-ofs, has been included.

Extras are broken up into five "magical worlds." Older fans will want to stick to the Darling House, which includes an alternate ending and three deleted scenes. In the Neverland Forest, there are four "featurettes," each less than two minutes long, that mix sparse behind-the-scenes clips with film footage, ostensibly to explore the role of Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, the fairies, and the forest itself in the world of Peter Pan
. Except they're all so short that they don't do anything at all except remind you what movie you just watched.

The Black Castle offers a bit more, with a six-minute featurette on the flying effects and a two-minute spot on the mermaids and their makeup outweighing another set tour. Home Under the Ground features an 11-minute promo fluff piece hosted by Sarah Ferguson. There are also bloopers of Fergie reading her promo script, because that's a useful item to stick on a DVD. There is another "set tour" of film clips and a two-minute Lost Boys profile to explore, too.

Finally, in the Pirate Ship, you'll find another set tour and a brief clip (comparable to the Lost Boys time waster) about the pirates. There is also a deleted pirate song that was never filmed, but is presented in rehearsal form. It's kinda cute, but in no way belonged in the final film, so I'm glad it... wasn't in the final film. The best extra here, and in fact on the entire disc, is Behind the Eyes of Captain Hook, six minutes of Jason Isaacs' on-set home video footage.

There are no trailers for the feature, but the disc starts up with clips for The Cat in the Hat and Two Brothers.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan is, finally, a film version that truly captures the magic of J.M. Barrie's enduring story. Universal's DVD hasn't much in the way of extras, but the audio and video are spot on.

Joel Cunningham 2004-07-27