Review: Hook

Hook (1991)
Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith, Dante Basco. Written by Jim V. Hart and Malia Scotch Marmo. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

The problem with Steven Spielberg’s Hook is that it’s too long, and parts of it are boring. A film with Robin Williams as a grown-up Peter Pan returning to Neverland to fight Captain Hook shouldn’t ever be dull, but it’s painfully so in places where it shouldn’t be, and it takes too long, first to get Peter to Neverland and then to get him back home.

Add to that a weird decision to make Julia Roberts a kind of Lost Boys version of Tinkerbell, and the film has kind of a weird it’s-not-really-magic feel. I understand the rationale, as it is important for the audience to believe that Peter and his experiences are real, but why at the expense of Tinkerbell’s femininity?

Peter is unaware of who he is, although he is aware of the story of Peter Pan. His grandmother is the Wendy Darling in the story, and Peter thinks the oft-told story of Pan is an invention of his grandmother’s. So when Hook kidnaps his children, it takes Peter a while to understand the truth of his past, and even longer to embrace it. The Lost Boys and Tinkerbell try to help, but Peter is too stuck in his boring, overly cautious businessman ways.

Still, anything to save his children. And for that he must confront Hook, played with relish by Dustin Hoffman, who acts the heck out of his role and leaves me wishing someone else had been cast. The extreme camp of this portrayal doesn’t work for me against the humdrum of Peter’s real-world reality. Something a little less crusty, perhaps even younger, might have worked better.

I don’t think this is a spoiler, but if you’re sensitive to being spoiled at all by a 26-year-old movie, skip this paragraph. In my favorite scene, and the only one that really sticks pleasantly in my memory, Tinkerbell grows herself to Peter’s height, and she lets her hair down and looks pretty for the first time in the movie. She professes her love for Peter, even knowing that he loves his wife, and gives him a kiss. It’s the Julia we want to see in a movie like this, and it’s the Peter we want to see in a movie like this. I realized at this moment that what I really want to see is a romantic comedy with Roberts and Williams in the leads. Alas.

As an entertainment for children, it’s not bad, ‘though it feels like a Disneyland ad for some reason. A young Dante Basco plays Rufio and it’s an unexpected pleasure for me to see him this way. A friend who’s acquainted with Basco tells me that whenever she sees him, people yell “Rufiooooo!” at him, and I have to admit I’d be tempted in the same situation. It feels like a star-making role.

I’d watch it with my kids, but I would hope that they wouldn’t enjoy it too much.


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