"Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning."
Few phrases from childhood are quite so iconic as that. Peter Pan is the dream of childhood. It's the dream of living in a magical land, never growing up, and always having fun. Believing that if one could only head towards the second star to the right they could venture to Never Land is a powerful fantasy. It's a fantasy worth revisiting from time to time, just as Disney has done with their sequel to the original film entitled Peter Pan in Return to Never Land.
The film takes place years after the original tale. Wendy is now all grown up with two children of her own. In London the Second World War is raging and Wendy's husband has to go off to help fight. Just before he goes, Wendy's husband tells their oldest child, Jane, that she must watch after her brother, Danny, and her mother. The words hit Wendy hard as she abandons her childhood as a frivolity and takes on more serious duties. She dismisses all of her mother's tales of Peter Pan as nonsense and kids' stuff, and encourages Danny and her mother to do the same.
Due to the Blitz, Jane and Danny are assigned a spot on a train to take them away from London. The night before they are to leave Wendy encourages Jane to tell her brother Peter Pan stories, to help alleviate the upset in Danny's life. Jane, again, dismisses the stories, but no sooner does she head to bed that night than Captain Hook, his crew, and ship appear outside of Jane's window and, mistaking Jane for her mother, kidnap her, bringing her to Never Land.
Even after being rescued by Peter, Jane still dismisses him, the Lost Boys, and Tinker Bell. She goes as far as to claim that she doesn't believe in fairies (an odd thing to say after having actually met Tink) and storms off.
As the film progresses, Jane teams up with Hook to find his stolen treasure as Peter and the Lost Boys search for Jane. They are desperate to find her and to make her a "Lost Girl," in hopes that if she becomes one of them she will begin to believe in fairies, which will save Tink, whose light is fading due to Jane's dismissal.
By the end of the film, all's right with the world, Tink's light is restored, Hook is put in his place, and Jane realizes the value of childhood and her mother's tales. It's a cheerful, decent, message in an otherwise humdrum film.
To suggest that things in Never Land need to progress with some sort of narrative logic may be foolish, but as Jane is from the real world, I do not believe that I am asking too much of her. The notion that after being kidnapped by Captain Hook she opts to team up with him against Pan makes little sense. The movie is not putting forth some sort of Stockholm Syndrome scenario, Jane just chooses to work with her kidnapper and would-be murderer.
Despite the lapses in logic, the film is sweet and enjoyable enough, though by no means anywhere near as iconic as the original. Returning to Never Land and seeing that Tinker Bell is still just as jealous as ever, the Lost Boys are just as fun-loving, and that Peter can still always gets the best of Hook is moderately diverting. There are, unquestionably, moments where the retread feels overwhelming, such as Tink's near death and the need to believe in fairies in order to restore her, which does dampen some of the joy the film would otherwise have.
The DVD, available on November 27 in a "Pixie-Powered Edition," comes with deleted scenes, an interactive game, and "Magical Fairies Moments," which are merely previews for Disney's Fairies line of products. The Fairies moments are cute, but add a cynical, monetary undertone to the DVD.
Peter Pan in Return to Never Land may not be the ideal sequel to the original Disney film, but it certainly has more going for it than other sequels and filmic adaptations of the original that have occurred through the years. The movie does show that there is still fun and merriment to be had in Never Land, and that while growing up may be valuable, there is something to be said for remaining young as long as possible.
And that is a valuable lesson for our children to learn.