Sunday, May 24, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: Giving the Hook to Hook

Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) squares off with Peter Pan (Robin Williams)
Steven Spielberg's Peter Pan project Hook is one of those movies that I've always defended from the brickbats of all those snooty media types who've looked down their nose at the 1991 film, claiming derisively that it occupies one of the bottom rungs of the Jaws and Indiana Jones director's expansive catalog of crowd pleasers. Pish-posh, said I. Elitist snobs! These folks were obviously just unable (or unwilling) to find their happy place. What're they, made of stone or something? I mean, come on, check out the release trailer!

Mind you, that sizable reservoir of good feeling I'd been nurturing about the film was built almost entirely upon having seen it the one time in early 1992 on home vid, when I was all of twelve. I hadn't once revisited it since then, and thus never needed to question those initial perceptions. Then I decided last night to watch it with my kids, happy to finally share this seminal experience with them, and...yeah, I can kind of see what everyone's been talking about.

Now, the kiddies liked it just fine, mind you, so I'm not going to harsh their buzz. But as for me? Grown-up Zaki? Yep, not gonna lie, it was pretty rough. At an unwieldy 142 minutes long, this should-be-breezy tale of the adult Peter Pan (Robin Williams) having to rediscover his childish joy in order to rescue his kids from his nemesis Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) is larded up with so many digressions and so much self-seriousness that it can't really sustain itself for that span.

While there's an obvious joy in watching Robin Williams be a big kid (even more so now that he's gone), and Hoffman is great as usual (as is the late Bob Hoskins as Smee), there's a stage-bound nature to the thing that's weirdly claustrophobic. Also, despite the fact that this subject matter is right down the center lane for Spielberg, he feels vaguely detached from it, like he's going through the motions. In a way it's kind of like what I said about Tomorrowland: Not necessarily bad, just not particularly good.

So yeah, kind of a bummer realizing that there are those times that you just can't go home again, but this is Nostalgia Theater after all, and so I've done my bit to find a vintage Hook toy commercial from Mattel's action figure line tying in with the film. These were terrible, both in concept and execution, but I'm pretty sure I owned at least one, possibly two iterations of Peter Pan (no Hook, though). Interestingly enough, Robin didn't sign off on his likeness, so rather than get a Williams-looking plastic Pan, it's just this generic guy-in-green with a sword. Weak.

As a bonus, here's a spot for McDonald's Happy Meal tie-in with the film:

It's hard for me to imagine kids doing somersaults over the prospect of owning those, but maybe I'm just too far away from when I was the target demo for that kind of stuff. Anyway, despite general critical apathy, the combination of director, cast, concept, and a Christmas release carried Hook aloft to the tune of $300 million against a not-insubstantial $70 mil budget. So, quality issues aside, it was an unquestionable winner for home studio Columbia. The Hook action figures, on the other hand, they didn't really take off.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Star Trek: The Next Generation Warps to the Finish Line

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Phantom 2040 -- The Ghost Who Walks...Into the Future

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: De-Neuralizing Men in Black: The Series

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