The tragic passing of Robin Williams has compelled folks to view his old classics again. Just log on to Netflix and you’ll see a few of his titles under the “Popular” heading.
I own precisely one Williams movie: Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991). (I really need to get a hold of Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire to complete my Robin Williams Trilogy of Childhood Merriment.)
So naturally last weekend, I re-watched Hook—that critically derided Peter Pan sequel that has a 30 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Viewing it as an adult, I understand the lack of critical adoration. Several jokes aim for the lowest common denominator. The Lost Boys are obnoxious, and we’re apparently supposed to laugh at the fat one on account of his fatness. Peter Pan grew up to become a lawyer and he makes bad lawyer jokes. We never get a strong sense of why Peter Pan decided to grow up at that particular point…Near as I can tell, he just took one too many trips away from Neverland, which allowed his adolescent hormones to kick in at the sight of Wendy’s granddaughter. And why is a movie about a grown-up Peter Pan named after Captain Hook?
Despite all this, I still love the movie. Sure, it’s deeply flawed, but it’s feel-good fun with a terrific cast and fantastic premise.
Robin Williams is perfect as a grown-up Peter Pan—what better casting could there possibly have been here? Dustin Hoffman is clearly having a ball chewing the scenery as Hook. The incredibly shrunken Julia Roberts rocks the green screen and makes a lively Tinkerbell. Maggie Smith provides the gravitas as old Wendy. And in one of those before-they-were-stars moments, we see Gwyneth Paltrow as young Wendy. (So basically, we can infer that Gwyneth Paltrow will someday grow up into Maggie Smith. She could do worse.)
Although watching Bob Hoskins as Smee provided a sad reminder that we lost another wonderful actor earlier this year. I’m going to have to re-watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? now too.
The premise of Hook could have been better executed, sure, but we still have some terrific moments, particularly when adult Peter remembers his happy thought and rediscovers his ability to fly—one of my all-time favorite scenes of any movie. The emphasis on the importance of family is a great focal point, especially since that was “the one joy from which (Peter) must be forever barred,” according to the J.M. Barrie novel. The big battle finale is tremendous fun, even if it does go on a little too long and I’m not quite sure how that crocodile eats Captain Hook. Was it even supposed to be alive?
Anyway, the last line is perfection. “To live would be an awfully big adventure,” the adult Peter says, mirroring the famous line from the original story: “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”
Okay, so the movie is pure cheesy fun. But sometimes cheesy fun is precisely what we need. So thanks to Robin Williams and the rest for giving it to us.