Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hook Is Back

Does anyone remember the movie, Hook, from when you were a kid (or a bit younger as the case may be)? It's got about as many cliches as it has minutes and I have never been the biggest fan of Robin Williams. Strangely enough Hook is still one of my favorite movies. I even occasionally quote it. "I've just had an apostrophe!" is surely one of the best lines in cinematic history. The part where Hook first walks out and you suddenly realize that it's Dustin Hoffman and he's freakin' short, is hilarious. Perhaps the strangest thing about this movie, for me, is that for once I find myself liking Peter Pan more than Captain Hook.

I have read Peter Pan and Wendy at least twice and have watched several movie versions of the story including the Disney animated. I never liked Peter Pan as a character in any of them. He was better in the movie versions, usually. But I still never liked him. I think I was born too old to appreciate Peter Pan, if that makes any sense. Recall the line from It's a Wonderful Life Mr. Bailey tells George that he was born older than his brother. Some people are just more mature from the day they were born. However, does it follow that such people have an advantage in life?

Let me put it this way, I never had any fun reading about Peter Pan. I never wanted to stay a kid forever, so I had no common ground with the charaacter. I did not want to grow up fast, but I sure did not want to be a kid all my life. I never believed in Santa Claus. When I watched movies like Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street I found myself unable to get into the story. Not because of the characters, but because of the message. Santa Claus and the perpetuation of him as an idea was not important to a person who never believed he existed. Suffice it to say, I am a born cynic and always have been. My skepticism is outrageous.

Yet I still think Hook is a good movie. Maybe it is able to reach the little kid that still exists in me. The cliches are the sort of cliches that kids do not notice. Captain Hook is hardly scary, but he is still a well done badguy, in my opinion. He's comical and even somewhat silly.

I could go on to express an opinion about the state of family films in the status quo. I could digress over the fact that no movie is good for both adults and kids these days. But it would not apply. It would be irrelevant. The fact is, there is very little adult-appreciable material in Hook. The jokes are the sort that kids laugh at. The expressions of imagination and emphasis on imagination are the kind that kids see the meaning of. You have to be a kid to like that movie. Or be partly a kid. I think the movie Hook does what the book Peter Pan and Wendy was meant to do. But better. Because I never liked the book and I never liked Peter Pan. I thought as Hook did that Peter Pan had very "bad form."

Then again perhaps that is the brilliance of that book. Perhaps it differentiates between the child and pirate in all of us. Some of us are closer to being Hook than to being Peter. Peter was a noble character in that he helped others and lived free. Peter's fatal flaw was that he forgot his friendships in the immature way that a child fails to realize how much others care for him. But Hook remembered everything. Yes, he obsessed over his memories and used them to harbor ill will. Still, he remembered. He took care of that which belonged to him, even if he hated it. His belief in appearances took precedence over his likes and dislikes of the people around him. The form mattered more to him than the heart of a person. Hook's fatal flaw was his belief that he was good just because he appeared good. In actuality he was the cynical, dark badguy with no happy thoughts. That darkness which exists in every person conquered Hook. However, Peter -- Hook's opposite -- was not the ideal human either.

Then comes the movie, Hook, and it shows a softer side to Peter Pan. A more manageable, mature side. Here is a Peter Pan who finally stands up for his loved ones. He puts his children before his own need never to grow up. Here is a Peter Pan worthy to defeat Captain Hook. There it is. That is why I hate the book so much. Because it ended too soon. The book Peter was not a worthy opponent. He was a silly, forgetful, immature ten year old who could not understand the important things in life. The Peter that Robin Williams portrayed was a man who has lost himself in darkness. This Peter discovers that light exists when he has to battle an enemy who is the image of his former, dark, foolish self in order to protect the goodness of his children who are the image of his childish Neverland orphan self.

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