REVIEW: “Peter Pan and Wendy” (2023)

There wasn’t anything that had me itching for a new Peter Pan movie. I’ve never been a big fan of his story and haven’t really connected with the various movie adaptations we’ve gotten over the years. But then I heard David Lowery was directing a new Peter Pan movie and my curiosity kicked in. Suddenly I found myself interested in seeing yet another version of the J. M. Barrie children’s classic.

Lowery is a fascinating director who has strikingly unique movies like “A Ghost Story” and “The Green Knight” to his credit. Yet interestingly this isn’t his first collaboration with Disney. He also made 2016’s charming live-action adaptation “Pete’s Dragon”. With “Peter Pan and Wendy” Lowery sticks pretty close to the source material, updating in a few places while expanding in some others. It’s certainly a well made movie with Lowery once again showing his knack for visual storytelling. Yet I can’t help but ask, did we really need another Peter Pan movie?

Image Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

I pose that question because there isn’t a lot in “Peter Pan and Wendy” that we haven’t seen before. There’s clearly passion in Lowery’s direction and in his faithfulness to the source material. He and his co-writer Toby Halbrooks have an obvious affection for Barrie’s original work and for Disney’s 1953 animated film, drawing inspiration from both equally. But even with the dazzling visuals, spot-on performances, and effervescent spirit it all feels a bit too familiar and lacks enough of its own flavor to make it seem necessary.

That said, I can still see long-time fans of Peter Pan really enjoying this most recent adaptation. And there’s enough eye-popping spectacle and wonder for children to enjoy. It follows many of the beats you expect. We meet Wendy Darling (nicely played by Ever Anderson, daughter of Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich) on the eve of being sent off to boarding school.Wendy is at the stage in her life where growing up has become a reality and the pains of change are weighing on her. She wants things to stay the way they are.

Then one night Wendy and her two brothers, John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe) are paid a visit by an adventurous young boy named Peter Pan. Along with his best friend Tinker Bell (Yara Shahidi), a sprightly little fairy who enables him to fly, Peter whisks Wendy, John, and Michael away from their home in London to Neverland, a magical island where you never grow old.

Neverland is gorgeously realized through Lowery’s lens. It a place of lush forests, tall cliffs, sun-soaked hills, and a sparkling sea. It’s a home for fairies, mermaids, a native tribe, and Peter’s gang of fellow children called the Lost Boys (but with girls). Oh, and there are also pirates – a ship full of them led by Peter’s arch-nemesis Captain Hook (played by a fun yet tame Jude Law). As you probably expect, their adventure eventually brings our young heroes face-to-face with Hook and his marauders. Through it all Wendy learns a few good life lessons and gains a new perspective on growing up.

Image Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

A few of Lowery’s changes are more noticeable. For example he adds a little more meat to Peter and Hook’s backstory. Tinker Bell feels less involved. And he plays around a bit with the ending. But none of the alterations to the story have much of an impact. They neither help or hurt. And that gets to the movie’s biggest issue. While it looks great, sounds great, and at times plays great, it doesn’t have much of a lasting effect.

Here’s the thing, there are a couple of terrific set pieces but it could’ve used more. It has a few tender moments but not quite enough of them. We get some laughs but not that many. Overall I can’t help but believe that with a few extra touches here and there “Peter Pan and Wendy” could have been truly memorable. As it is I’m guessing only the Peter Pan faithful will hold it dear. It’s hardly a bad movie. David Lowery is too good of a filmmaker for that. And anything he does is worth watching. But it doesn’t fully utilize his talents either. And ultimately that’s what left me feeling a bit indifferent. “Peter Pan and Wendy” is now streaming on Disney+.


7 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Peter Pan and Wendy” (2023)

  1. This movie actually sounds interesting. I just saw the Disney animated version of “Peter Pan.” I thought it was just okay.
    One part that sounds appealing is how Neverland is a place where you don’t grow old instead of grow up.

  2. I do like David Lowery but I’m not sure about this as I’m tired of these live-action remakes while I can’t believe the Crock wants to do a live-action remake of Moana.

    Still, I’m sure it is much better than Hook and… ugh… Pan.

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