'Wendy' Review: Benh Zeitlin Reimagines The Classic 'Peter Pan' Story
Tell me who doesn’t like a truly interesting re-imagining of a classic like ‘Peter Pan’ after we have seen plethora of money hungry shot-for-shot or live-action remakes in the last decade. Interesting is very much what Benh Zeitlin’s Wendy is going for since it flips things around to now tell the tale from Wendy Darling’s perspective, being the girl who Peter takes along with him to visit Neverland (though the name of the island is never mentioned here if I remember correctly). Biggest thing that relates to the film is the danger living right inside your own house when a style-specific filmmaker spends years on an adaptation, ultimately shooting themselves in the foot by ripping out the magic and allure to fill that void with visuals that will only excite the arthouse crowd.
What does excite you is the hook that plays out even before the first scene begins which is the point of view of Wendy (played by Devin France). She has a roof on top of her head, her mom and two brothers Douglas and James (Gage Naquin and Gavin Naquin, respectively). Instead of—let’s be frank here—seeing Peter (Yashua Mack) snatch up kids for an ”adventure”, we see Wendy and her brothers go for a journey to find their missing friend Thomas (Krzysztof Meyn) all while trying to find something of their own during a moment in life when you start to separate a bit from your parent. I did find that fun and original but to much surprise, I’m also not part of the movie’s main demographic so it’s hard to figure out what kids and young teens would get out of it. And yes, that’s a concern.
The concern grows larger because the further the adventure goes, it’s harder to see who the movie is for. It rules out really young kids because of mild (in terms of blood) mutilation, while the dialogue and action is a bit simplistic for teens. Whomever is left between, I expect to be very bored while watching it because it’s mostly running and shouting and that’s what you get at home with your siblings and friends. Is it for everyone then, no matter the age? Well no because the biggest blunder is the casting of the actors. These are first roles for all the kids and unfortunately that shows since the acting is pretty bad across the board. France and Ahmad Cage (as Sweet Heavy) do okay but other than those two, it’s either monotone or a lot of shouting for the delivery. No fault of the kids, the fault falls on director Zeitlin and casting crew for not addressing this at any point. It makes you feel like Zeitlin paid more attention to the cinematographer than to the performances.
Smileys: Premise, originality
Frowneys: Casting, acting, atmosphere
Neverland? More like Neverwantingtovisitthisland because it didn’t feel magical at all, it was just a sad and sour island.