TBT – Hook (1991)

childhood favourite, films, J M Barrie, meh, Peter Pan, review, rewriting, Robin Williams, Steven Spielberg, TBT

My twin sister and I really loved Hook when we were younger. It’s a really good children’s film that we found utterly hilarious. I mean, if I’m honest, it was mainly down to the fat kid and his weird dancing but it’s something. We rewatched that film as often as we could and I’m certain we would quote along with it. We must have really worn out the ribbon on the VHS copy we owned. Jesus, that statement makes me feel fucking old. Something else that made me feel old was finding out that Hook turns 25 this week. Has anyone else seen that picture of the Lost Boys as they are now? God dammit, those Lost Boys really grew up. Still, it provided the perfect chance to talk about it for TBT. I always enjoy the chance to revisits a classic from my childhood. The fact that it also marks the 2nd anniversary of Robin William’s death is just fate.

Hook is based on JM Barrie’s Peter Pan but, instead of telling the story of the boy who refused to grow up, Hook poses the question of what would become of Peter when he became a man. It’s not a retelling as such but a re-purposing I suppose. We get reintroduced to all the characters we love but not as we remember them. Wendy (Maggie Smith) is now well into her 80s and a great-grandmother. Peter (Robin Williams), now a hotshot lawyer, is married to her granddaughter, Moira (Caroline Goodall), and has two children of his own, Jack and Maggie. When Peter returns to the house where he first met Wendy he finds himself reacquainted with an old foe who has a long-standing grudge. Captain James Hook (Dustin Hoffman), wishing to finally rid the world of Pan, kidnaps his children and challenges him to a duel. Can Peter remember the boy he used to be or will he lose his children to his greatest nemesis?

As re-tellings go, Hook is hardy the most inspiring. It’s an incredibly long film considering you’re told the same thing about three times over. The exposition is over-complicated and reiterated so many times you’ll get déjà vu about your déjà vu. It also fails to do anything remarkably new with Barrie’s original tale. Who exactly is this film trying to appeal to? The kids out there who empathise with a lawyer on the edge of mid-life crisis or the mid-life crisis suffering lawyers out there who yearn to fly and fight pirates? It’s a weird idea for a film and you can’t help but wonder why Spielberg didn’t just re-imagine Peter Pan for a new generation? As it happens, Hook brings about a lot more questions than it answers and there’s a disturbing level of creepiness hanging over the whole thing. I mean it’s uncomfortable that Wendy and Peter had a weird romantic thing and now he’s married to her granddaughter. Then there’s the fact that a middle-aged Peter rightly brings about questions of the fact that there’s a load of unsupervised children living on an island and fighting pirates. When you introduce real adults into Neverland it all starts to lose a bit of the magic that made it do great when you were kids.

Watching Hook again as an adult is a weird thing. Part of me can understand why Spielberg hates this film so much but the other part just delights in everything that happens on screen. Hook is by no means the best kids film Spielberg has ever made but it makes up for its lack of finesse with fun. Spielberg clearly just doesn’t give a shit about anything he’s doing so it’s all just a bit of a mess. The big budget had meant a grand and spectacular scale but there is some amount of warmth and heart lost in the vastness. It’s all a bit paltry. However, the whole point of the story is to remind people not to lose their sense of fun. As a supposed grown-up its hard not to get swept away in Peter’s journey to rediscover his youth. It’s the ultimate fable about letting go of everything that made you great as a child when you get swept away in the world of work and family. We could all do with being a bit more like Peter.

It helps that Peter is played by the marvellous Robin Williams who utterly embraces the idea of recaptured youth. I know everyone has their favourite Williams role and, like most, I think the Genie in Aladdin is definitely up there. However, his performance in Hook is just as engaging because he has it all. Not only does he excel as the ultimate child all grown up but he is incredible as the father desperate to save his children. You can hardly call it his best dramatic role ever but its a performance that turns this potentially underwhelming concept into something I will love forever. After all, who can honestly say that there heart doesn’t leap when Peter finally starts to fly? Or when the Lost Boys realise that beneath the flab and the suit is the boy that they once followed so loyally? Hook is a bit of rough diamond. Yes, it could do with some polishing but, if you’re honest, it has enough charm that it doesn’t really matter.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Absolutely Anything (2015)

films, fucking awful, meh, review, Robin Williams, Simon Pegg

Simon Pegg has gotten a fair amount of hate on this blog over the years which is stupid considering how much I loved him back in the day. Spaced is and will always be one of my favourite shows growing up. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are still some of my most loved films. I have a lot of respect for the guy but he keeps making really shitty movies. It makes it hard to follow someone blindly through their career when it’s full of so many duds. It all started with The Big Nothing which a friend and I saw after months of excitement. Upon leaving we decided it contained only three real gags and, after the credits rolled, we could only remember one of them. To be fair that one was pretty fucking funny. Killing a diabetic with a giant lollipop? Amazing. Still, it was enough for me to be wary. So now I see Simon Pegg’s name on a cast list I tend to not have the immediate rush of excitement that I once had. The reason why it took me so long to finally watch this piece of shit.

On paper, Absolutely Anything should be a ready made classic. It was written by Monty Python’s Terry Jones and stars some of Britain’s biggest comedy stars. How could that fail I hear you cry? By being an even shitter Bruce Almighty without Morgan Freeman but with aliens and a talking dog. It’s an unimaginative and kind of nostalgic film that offers very little in the way of comedy. So, really I don’t want to spend much time on it here. Absolutely Anything focuses on teacher, Neil (Simon Pegg), and the weird twist of fate that gives him absolute power over everything. When a ship of aliens take it upon themselves to test the worthiness of humanity they randomly imbue one human with the ability to make anything happen. If the individual proves themselves to be worthwhile the planet will be saved. Of course, Neil’s first thoughts when he discovers his new powers is to improve his professional life and make the beautiful girl next door (Kate Beckinsale) fall in love with him. Humanity is clearly doomed.

It’s not that Absolutely Anything doesn’t offer anything funny because there are moments that will make you giggle. It’s that it just doesn’t push any boundaries. Terry Jones was supposedly working on the script for 20 years but there is no real evidence of this. It feels very old-fashioned in terms of its humour and the amazing cast is never given any real freedom to use their skills. The narrative never goes further than the basic level and there are several plot strands that are not explored as much as they deserve. Like the problem of literal interpretations of wishes that crops up whenever Jones needs an easy laugh. During the early stages of discovering his powers, Neil asks that his friend’s (Sanjeev Bhaskar) crush “worship” him leading to the woman forming a religion around him. It’s an interesting idea that is not given as much time as it should have. Instead we have to watch the hapless Neil attempt to make himself someone the lovely Kate Beckinsale could fall in love with. It’s all just very run-of-the-mill and won’t wow audiences with any Monty Python style hilarity and originality.

Despite having a slight Python reunion when the comics give their voices to the alien council judging the inhabitants of planet Earth. The group have some of the wackiest moments in the film and there is some joy to be had from their banter. However, it’s all very hemmed in. There is very little freedom within the film for any real comedy to come out. Absolutely Anything was billed as Robin William’s final film and, quite frankly, it’s a shame it was this one. William’s plays the voice of Neil’s dog after he uses his powers to allow him logic and speech. We know from Aladdin that William’s can excel at voicework but his role here is just blah. As though he wasn’t given the chance to explore the character as much as he should have. He may be one of the best things about the film but that really isn’t saying much.

Considering my wavering feelings about Simon Pegg and his dodgy choice Absolutely Anything was never going to change my mind. This film rests upon Pegg’s performance and, unfortunately for me, he wasn’t up to the job. His quaint charm wasn’t enough to distract from the lacklustre premise and lack of jokes. No amount of quirky Simon Pegg bumbling could make this film seem exciting. It was a fucking huge ask though so I won’t hold it against him.