Hook was one of my go-to films throughout the 90s, my taped-off-the-telly VHS being played to death until it was almost entirely unwatchable. I never really revisited Hook after my teenage years took hold, because I obviously had better things to do: namely listening to Nirvana and participating in under-age drinking like every other 15 year old. My other staple childhood favourites such as Jurassic Park, Jaws, Raider of the Lost Ark and Groundhog Day still continue to get watched to death though (clearly quite the Spielberg fan). But after I watched Mrs. Doubtfire again more recently (and still loved it), I had a sudden urge to go back and see if Williams’ other films were still as loveable as they once were. Out of all the films I revisited, Hook was the most bizarre experience. It was like watching a different film entirely to the one I remember. Why are the entirety of Genesis in this? Is that Glenn Close as a bearded pirate?? WHAT IS THIS FILM?!
The truth is, I don’t think anyone involved actually knows what the film was trying to be. It tries to appeal to both kids and adults, but ends up being a jumbled mess of ideas with no coherence whatsoever. It smacks of cocaine fuelled board room meetings and brainstorming sessions: ‘You can’t just have some pansy little boy flying about with a fairy; kids don’t like that stuff anymore, man. They like SKATEBOARDING and BASKETBALL and GRAFFITI ‘n shit!’. So as a result, we get given a version of the story where Peter Pan is now a professional in his 40s, and the Lost Boys are a bunch of intimidating street kids. It is bizarre to say the least. Peter ‘Banning’, as he’s now called, has the same career that every absent father had in 90s films; being one of those really horrible, douche-bag lawyers. And like every film in the 90s that feature rubbish lawyer Dads (see: Liar Liar), he learns his lesson and becomes a totally awesome father again. Hooray!
Apparently Spielberg had been wanting to do an adaptation of Peter Pan for years before he finally got round to making this. I’m not sure at what point he decided that any of it was a good idea. Now, that isn’t to say that the film isn’t enjoyable. In fact, it’s a lot more fun than it should be, although I’m not sure if for all the right reasons. There are more than a few unintentional laughs to be had; the bit where Maggie Smith proclaims ‘Look, I’m Wendy!’ to her grandkids feels more like she’s gone off the deep end and the kids should be replying with ‘Grandma, did you remember to take your medicine?’. I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if the entire film had been the fantasies of a dementia riddled old lady. In fact, the entirety of Hook could be read as one man’s descent into madness. Peter’s job becomes increasingly all consuming and meaningless, and his family treat him with more contempt everyday as he starts to hallucinate and create delusional fantasy scenarios in his own head. Kind of like American Psycho, but less violent and possibly more creepy (in a Michael Jackson kind of way).
There are some genuinely great moments though: when Rufio appeared on-screen, I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear as you heard the Lost Boys chant ‘RU-FI-OH! RU-FI-OH! RU-FI-OHHHHHH!’. Most of the scenes involving the Lost Boys were all so gleefully fun that they were very hard to overly dislike, and John Williams’ soaring score made me feel more nostalgic than I had in years. The casting of Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins as Hook and Smee respectively were also inspired, and make a fun comedy duo. Captain Hook’s camp hissy fits make him a hilariously memorable baddie, and the ‘stop me/don’t stop me, Smee’ scene still made me genuinely laugh this time round. It’s just a shame that the whole thing is such a damn mess. In one (clearly abandoned) sub-plot that had been erased from my memory, Tinkerbell professes her undying love to Peter and goes in for the snog and everything! It was as if they felt like Julia Roberts wasn’t worth paying over the odds for unless she was a love interest. Just bizarre.
In finishing, I wouldn’t say Hook was a bad film. Flawed, yes. Misjudged, yes. Batshit insane; clearly. But there’s too much to enjoy here for it simply to be a write off. In fact, its ludicrousness definitely adds to its charm: without it, this would just be flabby, overly-long and forgettable. As it stands, Hook’s absurdity makes it a firm nostalgic favourite among many twenty-somethings. Spielberg has obviously made better, and certainly made worse, but nothing that was so bafflingly enjoyable. BANG-A-RAAANNG!