Off the Shelf…'Hook'

I think it’s fair to say that a great many people overlook this film and it wasn’t really popular when it came out, but over the years I have learned to love Hook. Steven Spielberg can almost do no wrong and while this is a departure from the actioners he is known to helm, this still had its fair share of kid friendly swashbuckling. Talk about an ensemble cast, this film has acting talent in spades…

In Hook, a grown up Peter Banning (really, the real Peter Pan) has grown up in the real world after being adopted as an orphan. As an adult, Peter has forgotten all the memories from his time in Never Never Land. Peter, on a (perhaps fated) trip back to England is visiting Wendy Darling. His purpose is to honor her for her lifetime of raising orphans by opening a hospital in her name. While at that dinner event, Captain Hook has kidnapped Peter’s two children and ransomed them. Peter, so far removed from his past life, slowly starts to come to terms with what is going on, who has his children, where he must go to save them, and finally that he really is the Peter Pan.

When one thinks of Robin Williams, “wacky” is probably the first word that comes to mind. Yet, thinking about casting, he was really the only choice for this movie because if there was truly a person who never grew up, it is Williams. Sure he has had some fine dramatic performances and wowed audiences and critics with his range but this role suited him amazingly well. Sure this wasn’t a vehicle for him to channel all his over the top antics but he was able to play the line between adult and kid pretty damn well.

Now if Robin Williams wasn’t enough of a shot into left field for a casting decision, how about Dustin Hoffman? I mean he just killed the role and, aside from Bob Hoskins as Smee, was the best part of the movie. This wasn’t Hoffman’s best performance by far, but I still think he delivered the goods. He came across so likeable even as a villain that I would be all for another film, even though he was ambiguously eaten by the crock at the end. While I’m sure everyone (both viewers and the actors in the movie) realized some lines were cheesy, he gave it the performance a fine run through even if it seemed he was dumbing himself down to play Hook. This is still a kids movie after all, so some leeway had to be given to allow this movie and his role in it to get a passing grade from an older viewing audience.

While I consider John Williams as probably my all time favorite film composer, this score was both fantastical, inspiring magical and touching. Never one to give anything less than a top-tier performance Williams gave an incredibly unique score to the film which fit so well with the theme of the movie (could he do anything but?) making Hook not just a visual feast but an auditory one as well. While I value Williams’ scores, this, much like Hoffman wasn’t the crown jewel in his resume but there were some parts of the score (namely the sequence where Peter finally remembers who he is) that were beyond brilliant and showcased Williams’ ability to continually surpass his own achievements in music.

Now, I do adore this film, but I do find one gripe I need to bring up. I never, never, never, never liked Rufio, neither as the character or the actor. Something has always seemed off. Be it his brazen attitude, his arrogant demeanor, the fact that he can’t act, or that he really does look like a “skunk head with too much moose” his whole character was a real tough sell. However over the years (many, many yeas in fact), I have kind of accepted him as part of the movie and have let my dislike with him go…basically the same way I feel about Ghostbusters II.

Watching this movie was like watching a parade go by. There were so many wonderful things to look at, the colors were vivid and the music got you into what was going on. Amidst the cornucopia of great scenery and screen elements, there’s two things that really caught my eye and made me do a double take. The first is a rather obscure cameo from Glen Close (of all people) playing a lowly pirate (of all parts). If you didn’t notice her before that’s OK, she doesn’t really look like herself. It’s kind of like an on-screen easter egg if you’re able to recognize her. Also Phil Collins makes a very small appearance if you didn’t catch him either. I don’t want to spoil those scenes for you so I leave it to you all to watch it again to find them both…or for the impatient viewers, just try a YouTube search.

When this was released on DVD years ago it was one of the first DVD titles to feature an anamorphic transfer. That was like the HD of the day. While the visuals themselves may have seemed vert set oriented and implausible, I still consider it the eye candy of yesteryear. I enjoy this movie for its looks, the acting, the incredible score and the bookoo acting talent that brought it all together.

Now as a bit of parting thanks, I do have to acknowledge Pogomix.net (who are known to make awesome videos using nothing but clips, sounds and music from the movie in question) for their recent ‘Hook’ remixed music video. It was the inspiration to get me to watch and write-up this old favorite of mine. Check out the video and enjoy…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65PiKsNhCsc]

All in all, Hook is a reminder for us to get back in-touch with the kid in all of us. It’s a fun ride and really makes you believe in the “second star to the right” and all that goes with it.

G-S-T Ruling: 4/5

G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED

Comments

  1. mcarteratthemovies says

    The answer to your question “Who knew Mos Def could act?” is “Dave Chappelle.” Dave Chappelle knew.

    Also, Mos Def is one of the things White People Like.

  2. Barbara says

    While it’s far from my favorite Spielberg, I enjoyed “Hook” and think it has some wonderful elements, including the creative and whimsical production and costume design and some terrific performances – Hoffman and Hoskins are indispensible, Maggie Smith brings real emotion and dignity to the role of ‘Granny Wendy’, and Robin Williams gives his all to every aspect of the character.

    I do think that one reason it wasn’t more successful commercially or critically is that many people – myself included – expected another movie entirely. The script didn’t really work for me – though the concept did. Peter Banning, at the beginning, was too stuffy and (perhaps more problematic) too humorless and weak. Yes, he needed to rediscover his inner child to become the hero his children – and all the Lost Boys – needed, but I thought they went too far in the other direction for too long. And Rufio was truly a miscalculation in both writing and casting. I also found the script a little tone deaf in ways I can’t quite define, and Julia Roberts, who was actually pretty good as Tinker Bell for the most part (I have friends who disagree) just had to have the ‘Julia Roberts scene’ where she gets to dress up and have long, pretty hair, and solemnly swear her love to the hero. It did not, IMO, belong in a film of “Peter Pan”.

    Still, the good elements make it a movie worth trying, and I, for one, have never forgotten Hoffman’s mournful “No children love me” or his final “What would the world be without James Hook?” He was, as you note, very likable in the role, and the ‘Reformation’ style dress and ringlets suited him!

    • Holy crap Barbara…I can’t believe I missed one of your most awesome comments to date. Is that why we haven’t seen you lately? We’re sorry:(

      True it is an enormous undertaking to make a Peter Pan film, even if you are Steven Spielberg. I have so much fun with this every time I see it. The elements are, as you say, fantastic and I just love the concept of the film. Kind o f sequel without calling itself that.

      Totally agree about Rufio and have hated it for a while, though the arc that he in turn has both makes me forgive his prior arrogance but also (this is dark) makes me glad that Hook 86’s him.

      Also, so glad to find you’re in agreement with Dustin as Hook and read that you think so highly about his performance. One of his best to date and I found it funny he was in Finding Neverland:P
      Still all in all, looking at this as a child might, gives us the opportunity to see it as a Lost Boy might and be caught up in the wonderment of the visuals…if not that than the incomparable John Williams score should do the trick:)

      See you soon!