Pan Review

Pan

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away a group of brave and quite possibly ageless young men embarked on an evening of fancy dress pub golf during which one of the participants, an Anglo-Saxon male, chose to attend kitted out as the eminent golfer of the era.

That my betrothed still went ahead with the nuptials on hearing of the antics that took place at your correspondent’s stag party indicates that these were indeed far less complicated times.

Of course there was also that recognition in knowing a catch when she saw one.

With this in mind, it was with mild trepidation that I escorted my family to see Joe Wright’s take on the Peter Pan fairy-tale which controversially features a white actress playing a Native American.

With blessed relief, Rooney Mara had the good grace not to ‘black up’ in her reprisal of the role of Tiger-Lily.

Pan is the latest in a trend for big budget movies to imagine the life before an original story. We first see the new-born Peter being abandoned by his mother at the entrance to a Victorian workhouse.

Mercifully, depending on your perspective, the story does not begin at Peter Pan’s conception, although clearly there is an opening here for suppliers of disturbing niche specialist content. In fact I think I have stumbled onto something and yes I do seem to have digressed once more.

The action then travels forward 12 years to Peter and his friends being cruelly treated by the workhouse’s matriarch Mother Barnabus, a cross between Miss Hannigan and Widow Twankey, played with toothlessly winking relish by Kathy Burke.

Whilst the boys of the orphanage sleep at night Barnabus arranges their purchase into slavery to the pirate Captain Blackbeard, kidnapped to far away Neverland. Here they spend their days in a vast mine digging for fairy dust amongst a computer generated cast of fellow Lost Boys.

Of course Peter flees his shackles and, with the help of fellow slave James Hook and the aforementioned Tiger-Lily, defeats the evil Blackbeard whilst coming to terms with his newly discovered magical powers.

Hugh Jackman, not one to miss an opportunity to overact, is on full tart here as Blackbeard, applying implausible Broadway theatricality to a rendition of Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit performed when welcoming his newest charges to Neverland.

Newcomer Levi Miller and Mara, despite the furore of her casting, are both excellent as our eponymous hero and the native Tiger-Lily. Garret Hedlund’s handsome Hook is strangely un-remarkable whilst Adeel Akhtar is good fun as the haplessly downtrodden Smee.

Although Pan is suitably spectacular and perfectly good fun as a family movie, Jason Fuchs’ script is never far away from lurching into old school pantomime and not always in a good way. At its climax I half expected Christopher Biggins to emerge from a cloud of fairy dust and chase Blackbeard around The Jolly Roger with a feather duster before singing It’s Raining Men by the Weather Girls.

So if its mindless and nostalgic entertainment you are looking for than why not switch off your old Black and White Minstrel Show box set and take a look at Pan instead.

Frank Gardiner

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October 2015
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