‘Pan’ has too many bells and whistles

What It’s About

Blending whimsy and gritty action, “Pan” is the origin story of how a 12-year-old orphan became the Peter Pan of Neverland in J.M. Barrie’s beloved classic.

The precocious boy, alternately good-hearted and mischievous, is whisked away to an island ruled by Blackbeard (an over-the-top Hugh Jackman).

Peter (newcomer Levi Miller) meets Captain Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), who aids him in his epic battle with the imposing, dastardly pirate king.

Director Joe Wright (“Atonement”) has ramped up both the action and the fantasy to create a noisy spectacle. It doesn’t entirely work as a warm-hearted adventure, and the tone varies widely, but it is a timeless tale that still engages us.

Borrowing elements that duplicate scenes in such films as “Moulin Rouge” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the film confuses by being so derivative in its massive crowd scenes with flamboyant characters. And of course, the orphanage is straight of a Dickens novel.

It’s best in quieter moments, recalling that Peter just wants to find his mother.


An unrecognizable Jackman chews the scenery as the dramatic Blackbeard, and is outfitted like a villain from “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” He out-does Johnny Depp as a pirate of the Caribbean.

Miller is impressive in his blockbuster debut as the title character, and is an adorable waif.

Hedlund (“Unbroken”) appears to be imitating Indiana Jones as Hook, a swaggering adventurer before his transformation into evil incarnate.

In roles straight from central casting, the pirates are chuckleheads while the boys are cute tykes.

What Works

When the whimsy flairs up with eye-popping visuals and action is fast-paced, the film is entertaining. A sense of wonder still permeates the material, which is its saving grace.

What Doesn’t Work

The story is compelling enough without adding so many bells and whistles that you feel you are on a theme park ride. But copying things that worked in other movies seems like a desperate attempt to make this the quirky Broadway production, and “Neverland” is already on stage.

Overall, there is a generic, not special, quality about this effort.

2 1/2 stars out of 4

  • Director: Joe Wright
  • Starring: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried, and Jimmy Vee.
  • Rated: PG for fantasy action violence, some language and thematic material.
  • Length: 1:51