Few films captured my imagination quite as much as Hook did back in the day. It was a live-action Peter Pan which was decidedly kid-friendly and crazily whimsical yet it felt more grown-up somehow. Even as a kid, I vastly preferred it to the animated Disney flick and...
...it almost made me believe in Julia Roberts fairies.
Damn you Spielberg, you lying genius.
Re-watching it now, some of the film's whimsy is sadly lost on natural cynicism and busy kid-full scenes have become kinda exhausting to watch. Hook's cheesier moments like the little girl randomly singing or the whole let's-touch-Robin Williams'-face scene have become a tad distracting rather than just instantly charming and yet the film still mostly works if you're willing to buy into it. Spielberg's NeverLand is brought to life beautifully. A surreal world full of crude pirates, sword-wielding children, sexy mermaids, hungry crocodiles and several moons, it's simply an enchanting, perfect depiction of that particular fantasy world. Add to that a fab John Williams score and some competent adults in key roles and you've got yourself one hell of a Peter Pan movie. Now, if Hook had never happened and Spielberg showed up today and announced he was making a Peter Pan film with Robin Williams as the titular character, the internet and my head would probably implode. In retrospect, it was a weird choice to say the least. That Hook works as well as it does is a testament to how well Spielberg understands children. Whether you like the film or not, this is quite probably the director's most successful kids movie to date in that it's basically completely earnest and captures the spirit and wonder of the classic story whilst still bringing new ideas to the forefront. E.T.: The Extraterrestrial had that terrifying E.T. getting violently ill scene, A.I: Artificial Intelligence was dark and heartbreaking while the Indiana Jones movies had fried monkey brains, melting nazis and heart-grabbing madness. I mean, characters do die in Hook but every time it happens, it's swept under the carpet so fast that kids won't even have the time to notice it happened.
Yeah, poor kid doesn't even get a funeral!
Spielberg frames the story in the real world, slowly building-up to the fantasy aspect of the classic tale. We see a grown-up Peter (Williams) spend more time at work than with his kids which somehow prompts Captain Hook (a brilliant Dustin Hoffman) to transcend his world to kidnap Peter's children and bring them back to NeverLand in order to push Peter to finally engage him in battle. A bit like when an older Alice went back to Wonderland in Tim Burton's recent Alice In Wonderland movie, the whole Peter Pan being old thing is a little weird and it takes time to get used to but Williams pulls it off with gusto and it's hard to picture anyone else playing Hook than Hoffman, who proves to be the most convincing part of this whole movie by being exactly how you'd picture that character to be. Bob Hoskins and Julia Roberts both do a great job in their respectable side roles also, it should be noted. Maybe seeing a straight-up Peter Pan movie from Spielberg sans Williams would have been even better and made a little more sense but, as it stands, Hook is a unique take on a familiar tale with just enough charm and energy to make it a worthwhile, if not definitive, adaptation. It's one of those movies that has enough magic in it to captivate kids of any generation but which will probably alienate some older viewers for whom Hoffman's dastardly villain and all the non-NeverLand parts just aren't funny or dark enough to grab their attention. As a film, it's certainly flawed and Spielberg has done far better and far more polished than Hook before and since but it still does the job as a movie for kids specifically, it still has its classic moments and I guess that's enough to still make it well worth a watch.
While no masterpiece, Hook is a visually spot-on, unique, mostly adorable take on Peter Pan. Yes it's often corny and yes it could have done with a tad bit more irony but it remains a charming achievement and should enchant younger viewers particularly.