Hook ★★

True story: I saw this film in the theater in 1991. My whole family went. I was beyond excited--the guy who made Indiana Jones doing a Peter Pan movie? What could be better? I was 10 years old.

Right after the big climactic sword fight between Pan and Captain Hook, the film caught fire in the projector. At least in my memory, you actually saw the film disintegrate on the screen. After a few minutes, the whole crowd (a packed house) started getting restless. Finally, the manager came in and apologized. The projector was broken, and it took the last reel with it. Everyone would get a refund. But we wouldn't see the end.

And I don't know that I ever saw the last couple scenes until today, 23 years later. I say I don't know because if you put a gun to my head, I'd say I never watched this movie again after that first time, but some scenes and a few lines sounded awful familiar. It's possible I just watched the trailers and commercials so many times that a couple of moments stuck in my brain. Or maybe I caught it on HBO or something.

Still, most of this was totally new to me, and generally I would agree with the consensus that this is not Steven Spielberg's strongest work. It certainly resonates with his career in interesting ways--Spielberg himself is something of a Pan figure, and HOOK, like so many of his best films, is about orphans and about parenthood and lost innocence--but it's also deeply muddled and punishingly long. It's *trying* to say something, but I'm not sure it ever quite says it. There's something very charming about the idea that Robin Williams' Peter reclaims his innocence and immaturity specifically by embracing fatherhood, but the whole mechanics of his transformation back into Peter Pan are genuinely confusing. (Once he flies, he finally remembers who he is, but forgets he's a grown-up and mentally regresses back to childhood. So how does he maintain his happy thought, which are his children?).

The film's not a disaster, though. Dustin Hoffman's really good as Hook; he evokes the old cartoon without ever fully becoming one himself, and he's equally funny and scary. And the flying scenes are really beautiful and thrilling. Actually, watching those scenes, where Williams soars and spins high over Neverland, brought me rushing back to that theater in 1991, where those images gave me chills. It made flying look like a beautiful dream, at least until reality intruded.

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