Peter Pan & Wendy review: A marked improvement on Disney's recent live action remakes

David Lowery's remake may not be suitable for all ages though

Yara Shahidi as Tinkerbell in Disney's live-action PETER PAN & WENDY, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yara Shahidi as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan & Wendy. (Disney+)
  • 🎞️ When is Peter Pan & Wendy out: Streaming on Disney+ from Friday, 28 April

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 3/5

  • 🎭 Who's in it? Alexander Molony, Ever Anderson, Jude Law, Yara Shahidi, Jim Gaffigan, Alan Tudyk and Molly Parker

  • 👍 What we liked: Offers a new perspective on a familiar tale.

  • 👎 What we didn't: Darker themes rob the film story of its all-important magic.

  • 📖 What's it about? Defying her parents’ wishes for her to go to boarding school, young Wendy Darling meets Peter Pan, a boy who can fly and also refuses to grow up.

  • ⏱️ How long is it? 1 hour 46 minutes

For its latest live action remake of an animated classic, Disney has turned to an established pair of hands with Peter Pan & Wendy. Usually associated with arthouse indie fare (A Ghost Story/The Green Knight), director David Lowery makes a return visit to the House Of The Mouse after making 2016’s Pete’s Dragon.

Read more: Peter Pan is the best and worst of Disney

This latest outing for the boy who wouldn’t grow up clearly respects both the original J.M. Barrie novel and Disney’s animation, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. The narrative is essentially the same and all the familiar characters are there, from Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Hook, to Tinker Bell, Smee and, of course, that crocodile. But it’s also unafraid to take both the characters and the audience into completely new areas.

Watch a clip from Peter Pan & Wendy

Key characters are given backstories which are ripe for exploration, especially the one explaining the long-standing animosity between Pan and Hook. While giving the characters added depth, it does mean that other storylines are played down, so that the crocodile and his menacingly ticking clock only puts in one appearance in a style very reminiscent of a certain great white shark.

They also bring a darkness to the story, so that Hook becomes unexpectedly sympathetic. He had a heart. Who knew? And Jude Law, perhaps not the most obvious choice for the role, neatly balances villainy with pathos to give our heart strings a gentle tug or two.

Read more: Peter Pan & Wendy star 'daunted' by growing up

But it also means a distinct change of tone, robbing the movie of the original’s magic and turning what is usually regarded as a family film into something aimed much more at adults. It’s not a wholly comfortable fit.

Jude Law as Captain Hook in Disney's live-action PETER PAN & WENDY, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Jude Law as Captain Hook in Disney's live-action Peter Pan & Wendy. (Disney+)

Lowery’s love of the story and its flights of fantasy are written all over the screen, as is his visual trademark of lush green landscapes, most recently seen in The Green Knight. This helps soften the darkness, so the result is close to the fuzzy warmth you’d expect.

And the film marks a definite step in the right direction for a cluster of movies which, of late, has stumbled to reach the standards of the original animations (Pinocchio, we're looking at you).

All it needed was a good handful of fairy dust.

Peter Pan & Wendy begins streaming 28 April, 2023, only on Disney+.

What other critics thought of Peter Pan & Wendy

The Telegraph: The most beautiful, moving children's film of the year (4 min read)

Evening Standard: Sacrilegious and not shocking enough but when it gets going, it soars (3 min read)

Digital Spy: Jude Law shines as Hook in the new Peter Pan movie (4 min read)