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Return to Never Land

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Return to Never Land

Starring: Blayne Weaver, Harriet Owen
Director: Robin Budd
Rated: G
RunTime: 70 Minutes
Release Date: February 2002
Genres: Animation, Kids

*Also starring: Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett, Kath Soucie, Andrew McDonough, Roger Rees, Dan Castellaneta, Spencer Breslin

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

There's something to be said for the retro cartoons the ones we've seen before the fancy hi tech stuff came around to give us great works like "Shrek," "The Iron Giant," and "Chicken Run." As "Return to Never Land" plays just after the classic 1948 Disney short "Pluto's Fledging" (an inane animation that sees the titled dog teach a newborn bird how to fly), we note that while that style of animation is awfully similar fifty-four years later, the dialogue is contemporary, the silly cartoon violence is toned down, and there's a real plot. In fact as Mr. Pan takes aim on the evil Captain James Hook, the leader of a band of pirates intent on capturing buried treasure, we feel like cheering the lad just as we root for, say, Adam Sandler's character in "Waterboy" to make that touchdown in the final seconds of the game.

Truth to tell, though, there isn't a double entendre to be found to delight the adults in the audience, so don't expect even a "Jimmy Neutron" this time around. Still, the World War II scenario is a daring gesture, and as the bombs fall on London we wonder whether the MPAA thought a bit about upping the rating to PG. The theme of "Return to Neverland" is similar to that of the other Peter Pan episodes: Only believe. Have faith, trust, and pixiedust, don't ever grow up, and you'll get along just fine even in parlous times whether they be London in 1941 or New York City in 2001.

Wendy has grown up and had a couple of kids of her own which means that while she may still think of Peter and tell stories to her own about her adventures with the cocky boy way back when, Peter himself would scarcely be caught dead with her or any other adult for more than a few moments at a time. As Wendy's younger daughter Jane (Harriet Owen) falls asleep just after her dad is trucked off to the front amid a tearful family goodbye, she thinks she's dreaming just like Dorothy in Kansas. It's up to Peter, whom she meets along the way, to convince her otherwise. A non- believer, her atheism threatens the life of Tinker Bell, whose lights are dimming as though she needed the good wishes of otherwise just to stay alive. While Peter (Blayne Weaver) tries desperately to convince Jane to get over her denial, he and his band of Lost Boys must fight off the treacherous Captain Hook (Corey Burton), who is intent not only on recovering the treasure but on doing away with the pesky crew of bumptious brats who associate daily with their childlike and childish leader.

Usually a critic does not judge a movie by audience reaction, but when cartoons are the order of the day, we do well to listen to its effects of the 4-to-8 year olds in the theater. Save for a one-year old being baby-sat by his 7- year-old sister, the kids seem enraptured by the goings-on. That's good enough for me.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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