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'Pan' review: Peter Pan fans won't recognize the story here

Hugh Jackman in

Hugh Jackman in "Pan." Photo Credit: TNS, Warner Bros. / Laurie Sparham


The origin story of the flying boy known as Peter Pan. Rated PG (action and some scary scenes).


A botched interpretation of the classic story that trades spectacle for coherence.


Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara



Somewhere between London during World War II, Seattle circa 1991 and whatever Cirque du Soleil production is currently playing at the Bellagio lies "Pan," a mind-boggling and misbegotten mélange of musical, cultural and aesthetic references. One of them, nominally, is J.M. Barrie's timeless fairy story "Peter Pan," though you'll barely recognize it here. When it comes to reinterpretations, many liberties can be taken, but "Pan" is doing something else entirely.

Directed by Joe Wright (whose "Anna Karenina" was equally stylish but far more successful) and written by Jason Fuchs, "Pan" envisions itself as both origin story and reboot, which seems like an obvious conflict of narrative. In this telling, Peter (Levi Miller, a 13-year-old Australian making his major film debut ) is a Dickensian orphan who is plucked from his bed by pirates whose ships sail into the sky, which greatly alarms the Royal Air Force. This combination of historical fact and whimsical fiction initially works rather well -- think Terry Gilliam in a good mood -- which makes what follows all the more disappointing.

Neverland turns out to be an island where children work in mines under the iron rule of Blackbeard, played by Hugh Jackman in clownish makeup and a jet-black wig. But wait -- what happened to that other pirate, Hook? He's now a good-hearted adventurer played by Garrett Hedlund; he wears Indiana Jones' hat but doesn't have Harrison Ford's charisma. What follows is an escape, an encounter with Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and a tribal prophecy about a boy who can fly.

You'll have many questions. Why is Hook mostly, but not entirely, a good guy? What happened to Peter's eternal youth -- the central, definitive theme of every "Peter Pan" since it debuted as a stage play in 1904? Why has Tinkerbell been reduced to an insect? Most crucially, why does Blackbeard sing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit?"

Wright can't decide whether to be Baz Luhrmann or Tim Burton. But that isn't the only reason "Pan" spirals so wildly out of control. "Pan" has bent its source material so far out of shape that it's no longer recognizable. What sequel could the filmmakers possibly be planning? God only knows what they might do to Wendy.


Ahoy, Blackheard!

Yo ho, yo ho, it's a pirate's life for Hugh Jackman as Capt. Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, in the new movie "Pan." Here are four other actors who have also played the scourge of the seven seas.

THOMAS GOMEZ -- In "Anne of the Indies" (1951), the venerable character actor popped up as Blackbeard, mentor to notorious female pirate Anne Bonny, played by Jean Peters, who'd leave films in 1957 after marrying Howard Hughes.

ROBERT NEWTON -- The English actor, who had previously played Long John Silver in Disney's "Treasure Island" (1950), got into swashbuckling mode again two years later playing the title role in "Blackbeard the Pirate."

PETER USTINOV -- In the "Topper"-esque 1968 comedy "Blackbeard's Ghost," the Oscar-winning actor gave a spirited performance as the title character, who has been cursed to remain a spook unless he does one good deed.

IAN McSHANE -- Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) met his match with McShane's Blackbeard in 2011's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." In the movie, Blackbeard was graced with supernatural powers and a super-attractive daughter, played by Penélope Cruz.

--Daniel Bubbeo

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