[box cover]

Hook

Hook may be director Steven Spielberg's most infuriating film. The screenplay is a triumph of high concept, asking What if Peter Pan had grown up? — but the rushed, too-silly execution makes the final product one of the director's most uneven efforts. Scenarist James V. Hart's storyline is a surprisingly reverent sequel to J.M. Barrie's children's tale. Peter Banning (Robin Williams) — a middle-aged corporate raider with no memory of his childhood escapades against Captain Hook — is shanghaied back to Neverland by Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) when the evil pirate kidnaps Peter's adorable-moppet spawn. Banning/Pan is given a rather brutal, noisy refresher course in flying and fighting by Tink and the still-youthful Lost Boys — even as Hook (Dustin Hoffman) and Smee (Bob Hoskins) are trying to draft Peter's son (Charlie Korsmo) to their side. Thematically — especially if one takes the critically specious step of incorporating Spielberg's career arc into the analysis — this is fairly riveting stuff. Hook's plotline likely is the only children's fantasy about flying men and pirates to feature a midlife crisis as its narrative drive train, and it's tempting to apply this analysis to Steven Spielberg himself. With the notable exception of Jurassic Park — which Spielberg handed to George Lucas in post-production — and its horrid sequel, Spielberg's post-Hook output (Schindler's List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan) has been marked by an almost-fatherly sense of civic responsibility. But despite Hook's disappointments, the film has some undeniable charms. Williams largely disabuses himself of the smarmy theatrics that have marred his recent work, even as he's cavorting about on wires with a shaved chest, and Hoffman tears into Captain Hook with relish, disappearing into his prop- and makeup-heavy role and hoarding most of the film's genuinely funny moments. But after a promising, melancholic intro, the film derails for most viewers over the age of 10 when Peter arrives in Neverland. Spielberg has been guilty in the past of being silly when he's trying to be funny, and the sequences with the Lost Boys are an unfortunate return to form. Roberts, a fine and decidedly well-cast actress, is undermined by Hook's editor; the many takes of Tink observing the proceedings with pixie-ish cuteness will have the viewers searching for an insulin kit. The best part of this production is John Williams' score — however, the fact that this DVD has no isolated-score track is a wasted opportunity. Good transfer, DD 5.1, trailer, textual supplements.
—Alexandra DuPont

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