Making the Grades
Millions of children have reveled in the story of Peter Pan the boy who refused to grow up. I don't know if any of them ever regretted his decision to stay in Never Land instead of returning to reality with Wendy, but it's a good bet that's how the creators of the movie Hook felt.
Peter Banning (Robin Williams) is a workaholic father with a fear of flying, so he is not looking forward to taking time off for a family vacation that includes a plane ride to England. His wife Moira (Caroline Goodall) however, is ecstatic to share all the magic and excitement of her legendary grandmother with their two children (Charlie Korsmo, Amber Scott).
Now in her eighties, Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith) is credited as the inspiration for the Pan adventure story penned by her childhood neighbor J.M. Barrie. Captured in literature as a model of motherhood, the woman has spent most of her life helping displaced children find happy adoptive homes. Peter himself is one of her lost boys.
During their visit, the Bannings attend a banquet held in the matriarch's honor, leaving their young ones to sleep in the nursery made famous in the fairy tale. And just like in the book, an unexpected guest comes in through the open window only this time it isn't someone in green tights looking for a lost shadow. When the adults return they find the home vandalized, the children missing, and a mysterious note signed by someone named Hook pinned to a door with a dagger.
While the police puzzle over the perplexities of the case, the elderly lady takes the worried father aside and reveals a secret far stranger than the evening's events: Fiction is really fact. Whether he remembers or not, the middle-aged lawyer was once Peter Pan, and the pirate captain has resorted to kidnapping his children in order to lure him back to Never Land for a rematch.
Even alcohol fails to help him cope with the ludicrous revelation, especially when Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) appears. Refusing to accept his disbelief, the little pixie transports Peter to the mythical island where his nemesis has taken his offspring. But if he wants them back, the soft and flabby pencil pusher will have to recapture his childhood imagination and face his parental shortcomings.
Painting a picture of scurvy villains, raucous sailors and unkempt kids, the movie presents violent behavior in a way that may frighten young viewers. Although much of it is done in a silly slapstick style, characters do die as a result of swashbuckling sword fights, and the emotionally unbalanced Captain Hook resorts to psychological manipulation and death threats. Meanwhile, the lost boys display gang like behavior with a disregard for authority mingled with a little belching, crotch-kicking humor and the odd swear word.
Older audiences will undoubtedly be impressed by Dustin Hoffman's portrait of the mad mariner, while the movie's message about the importance of family relationships will claw at their hearts. Those concerned about the passage of time will discover, as does Peter, that no matter what your age there are happy thoughts worth crowing about.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Hook.
As the older Peter faces his childhood enemy he notices Captain Hook is not as tall as he used to appear. How does time effect how we perceive things? How does removing the villains wig change the way we see him?
The credits of this Steven Spielberg film include some individuals whose names you may recognize. Look for the tiny parts played by Phil Collins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Glenn Close and Dodi Fayed. And by the way, the couple kissing on the bridge is George Lucas and Carrie Fisher.
Fans of this tale may appreciate knowing that J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, donated his royalties from sales of the book and play to the Great Ormond Street Hospital with the hope of helping children. In1987 an act of Parliament insured his bequeath would continue perpetually.