Each of us have movies from our childhood that we've long since forgotten. When asked what our favorite kids' movies are, we have at least a half dozen on the tip of our tongue, movies that we remember loving that, when we sweep away the haze of nostalgia, perhaps no longer have the resonance that they once did. We talk of them, we treasure them, but we rarely go back to watch them again unless seized by a feeling on one special rainy day.
But once, every so often, we can stumble across one that we've lost track of. A movie that, surprisingly, is just as good as we remember it being; we find a movie able to make one laugh, smile, and cry just as it did a long time ago. For it to weather the test of time and be just as appealing now as it once was, that is something worth treasuring. Though the word has become lessened by Disney's overuse of it, I dare say that finding a movie that has the staying power to tug on your heartstrings decades after you first saw it is truly magical.
For me, that movie was Hook.
An Adult's Perspective
“Peter, don't you know who you are?”
What was immediately interesting to me was the fact that, when you think about it, the premise to Hook is incredibly dark. Set as a sequel to the events that we know in love, it involves Peter grown up as an unhappy and misguided older man obsessed with his unimportant job. He is fat, afraid of heights, ignores his children, and has complete amnesia regarding the events of his youth. He remembers nothing of once knowing how to fly, of the endless adventures of Neverland with Tinkerbell and his troupe of Lost Boys, of how to put everything aside and simply take joy in the exuberance of being forever young. When told of his past by an old Wendy, he rejects it as lunacy.
Hook then proceeds to kidnap his children in order to provoke Peter into a final confrontation, but it is clear that Peter Pan isn't even a shadow of what he once was. He lies piteously unable to rescue his children and gives up entirely. The Lost Boys almost completely reject him. Tinkerbell laments the Peter he once was. Hook then decides that the ultimate revenge would be to subvert Peter's own children against him, brainwashing them so that they think that Hook is their father, not Peter.
Taken on the surface, all of this is a nightmare. I'm not sure I could even think of a more disturbing way to twist the tale. What's funny is that none of this really sunk in or occurred to me when I was younger.
“Dark and sinister man, have at thee.”
But this dark spin is concealed well, hidden by an immaculate veil of adventure, heroism, and rediscovery. We all know of Neverland and the adventures of Peter Pan, but not like this. In the current day and age, it is easy to forget that Steven Spielberg was a great director; movies such as War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull have tainted his once faultless reputation. But watching Hook made that all slide away, unimportant and forgotten. Hook simply exudes life. Neverland is vibrant and beautiful. The homes of the Lost Boys and the pirates each are unique, chock full of color and vision. Having once been a theater nerd in high school and college, I gazed awestruck at the sheer amount of props and wild set design throughout. The theater feel is very powerful in this film, and it makes me wonder if it was intentional.
On top of that, the acting is phenomenal. Robin Williams somehow transitions seamlessly and perfectly from jaded, old, stressed man going through a mid-life crisis to a spritely, wild-haired, daring Peter Pan crowing to the sky without a care in the world. Dustin Hoffman is completely unrecognizable as Hook. For a rather short man, he manages to have an astounding presence in the film. Hoffman nails Hook's ennui with life without an adversary in one moment, then turns around and roars with laughter as he serves as Pan's nemesis in another. Julia Roberts fares excellently in the comparatively thankless role of the mischievous fairy, Tinkerbell. And on and on. Smee is superb. Wendy is perfect. Rufio is, well, RU-FI-OOOOOOOOOOOOO!
“That's right, Peter. Second star to the right and straight on til morning!”
And, as crown to the epic and wondrous spectacle that is Hook, we have the stunning score courtesy of John Williams of Star Wars fame. With brilliant acting, a beautiful soundtrack, phenomenal production, it is hard not to love this movie. It is alternately bittersweet, heroic, tragic, and heartwarming. Peter's growth from worn, fearful man to one that is carefree and brilliant is truly glorious to watch and, though his journey ends with him a flying and dashing daredevil, it still serves as a beacon of inspiration to anyone watching who might feel down on themselves and perhaps questioning of their future.