moviebuff801: Time Capsule Reviews: Hook (1991)

Posted: September 2, 2012 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: December 11th, 1991

Running Time: 2 hours and 22 minutes

Written by: James V. Hart &  Malia Scotch Marmo

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins

Think back for a minute.  We all have a specific movie or two that we watched religiously as a kid, and which still holds a special place in our hearts.  Don’t deny it.  For me, that movie would be Steven Spielberg’s Hook, a rousing family fantasy-adventure that’s built around a very intriguing premise: what if Peter Pan grew up?  Spielberg and co. take that premise and, through elements blended together splendidly, work magic with it; magic of both the fantasy and movie variety.

In Hook, the seemingly immortal Peter Pan has done the impossible, at least for him: he’s aged into manhood.  Now, he’s Peter Banning (Robin Williams), a married middle-aged lawyer who’s the paragon of corporate integrity, but of course, at the expense of his family.  Peter’s work as a lawyer has distanced himself considerably from his family, namely his two children, Jack (Charlie Korsmo) and Maggie (Amber Scott).  But a trip to London to celebrate the accomplishments of orphanage-runner “Granny” Wendy (Maggie Smith) suddenly becomes a call to action for Peter when Jack and Maggie are kidnapped in the middle of the night, with a knife and note left behind in their wake, with said note bearing the signature of Captain James T. Hook.  Despite Wendy’s insistent claims of Peter’s true identity, it’s not until a fairy conveniently named Tinker Bell (Julia Roberts) shows up and whisks him away to Neverland (second star on the right and straight on ‘til morning) that Peter slowly starts to realize that he was once Peter Pan, and in order to save his children from the vengeful Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman), Peter will need the help of the still pre-adolescent Lost Boys.

Hook is one of those movies that can most readily be described as timeless.  It’s not the kind of family film that caters to only one demographic; there’s a lot of things to enjoy about it even after you’ve grown all up.  Assuming, of course, that maturity hasn’t disillusioned you too much.  Looking back on all the times I watched Hook as a kid, I never realized how cleverly the script sprinkles in some nice doses of humor for adults, and it’s exactly that kind of stuff that only adds to my enjoyment of the film all these years later.  Putting all sense of nostalgia aside, though, at the heart of Hook lies a simple, yet endearing message: to never lose touch of who you really are as you grow up.  This movie handles that idea really well while it simultaneously provides an interesting journey through the psychology of Peter Pan.  In a way, Hook adds just a dash of a darker color to this rainbow, of sorts, but it never loses sight of the story’s soul.  It attacks the Peter Pan story from a more emotional angle, and allows us to connect with it in a way we never have before.

Building off that point, call me crazy, but I find Robin Williams’ performance here to be one of the best of his career.  Normally, Williams opts for the more whacky individuals, especially around the time this movie was made, but in this movie, we started to see what he was capable of from a more dramatic standpoint.  Williams handles Peter’s arc from an uptight businessman to a mischievous hero with great skill, and there’s never a moment in this film where I doubt his performance.  When Peter dons the green tights again, Williams gets some good moments to really showcase his energetically comedic talents, but at the same time, there’s still an undercurrent of seriousness there that does give the impression that he’s not the reinvented Peter Banning, but rather the reawakened, yet slightly more mature Peter Pan.  Needless to say, I find this to be one of Robin Williams’ more underrated roles.

But what good is a great hero without a great villain?  I’m gonna come right out and say it: Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook is one of my favorite villain performances ever.  Hoffman doesn’t exactly reach the more scary heights of people like Anthony Perkins or Heath Ledger, but at the same time, Hoffman isn’t trying to reach that level.  Hoffman is more interested in achieving the kind of menace that’s born out of smarmy charm.  And that’s the pleasantly dramatic irony here – that despite playing a notorious pirate captain, Dustin Hoffman brings a certain level of sophistication to Captain Hook that actually contrasts well with his more vicious moments.  Especially through the method in which Hook enacts his plan to get revenge on Peter, there’s a snakelike charm that epitomizes the character, and we can’t help but love him in that fun villain sort of way.  Dustin Hoffman is clearly having fun in the role, and we’re having fun with him.  He’s never a bore to watch in this movie.  Not to mention, Hook has many great lines here.  Oh, and Bob Hoskins as Smee?  Just as entertaining as Hoffman.

Another great thing about Hook?  The magnificent score by John Williams, which has to be my favorite score from the lauded composer.  As cliché as this will undoubtedly sound, there’s only one word with which to describe this score: magical.  It’s the kind of score, where if you know the movie as well as I do, simply listening to it paints vivid pictures of scenes in your head.  In fact, I’m listening to the score right now, as I’m writing this review, and it’s like I’m being transported to Neverland.

You’re probably wondering by now if there’s anything about Hook that I don’t like?  Well, this movie is one of my All-Time Favorites, so at the very least, my complaints are more like small annoyances.  Annoyances such as, how can Peter have remembered thinking specific thoughts when he was just a baby?  And in the Third Act, certain characters are way more trustworthy of other characters that they should know by then are anything but trustworthy.  And if there’s one weaker link in the cast, it’d have to be Julia Roberts.  Plus, some of the sets in Neverland are clearly that: sets on a soundstage.

But those, in the end, amount to merely quibbles.  Overall, Hook provides some great entertainment and expands upon the story of Peter Pan in a fresh and interesting way.  It’s my favorite family film ever, and certainly a movie that fills me with childlike joy whenever I watch it, and true to its word, it makes me to not want to grow up for 142 minutes.  I love it so much, that when someone speaks the line “Thank you for believing,” near the end, I’m almost compelled to say “You’re welcome.”

****/****

Comments
  1. Nic says:

    I loved this movie when I was a kid. I re-watched it not long ago and it still holds up for me. The music is great, especially Hooks theme.

    I still love the dinner bit where they imagine play-dough food.

  2. The only time I saw this was in theaters as a kid and I’m shocked that it’s nearly 150 minutes long.

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