starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Freddie Highmore and Dustin Hoffman
written by David Magee
directed by Marc Forster
No, this has nothing to do with Michael Jackson. Based upon the play “The Man who was Peter Pan” by Allan Knee, this is the story of how J.M. Barrie came up with the beloved children’s tale of Peter Pan, the Boy Who Never Grew Up, more than one hundred years ago. Although it may be said that Barrie himself was a reluctant adult and the real Peter, he certainly based his characters on the four children of the Llewelyn Davies family - one of whom was named Peter - of his acquaintance. In the entire film I liked theater producer Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman) the best - the faithful, longsuffering friend supporting Barrieone mediocre play after another, waiting for a success. The producers are always the money behind films and stage plays, and they have to go out on a limb for their talents, sometimes out of friendship, or maybe for conviction of the genius that is there. Barrie’s idea of mixing 25 children into the audience of stuffy Edwardian adults on opening night to set a hildish mood, and to help nudge the grown up folk into the spirit of things was moving. It worked, and Frohman got his financial success. I wonder if it is historically accurate? Easy enough to find out, I suppose.
Peter Lleywelyn Davies (Freddie Highmore) reminded me of the young girl, Susan Walker (Natalie Wood), in 1947’s Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street. Reluctant to get into the fanciful spirit of Barrie’s playfulness, Depp’s efforts to bring the boy around repeatedly invoke the imagination - something that people say we lose as we get older. So the real Peter, like the little girl Susan, was prematurely old, meaning that it was Barrie who was himself the boy who refused to grow up - like Chris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) opposite Natalie Wood.