A few weeks ago, Robin Williams joked, "Hey, HOOK stars the stars of ISHTAR and POPEYE and was directed by the man who brought you 1941, so it has a history of people familiar with bombs."
HOOK isn't a complete dud, but it's disappointing given the amount of hype its gotten.
HOOK has a great premise: What if Peter Pan grew up? According to an article in PREMIERE magazine, the premise popped out of the mouth of the six-year-old son of the scriptwriter one day. IMHO, most of the problems in the film relate to the script and the direction. Most of the magic in the film is the credit of the art direction team, who created a phenomenal Never-Never Land, and the special effects team, who orchestrated some terrific flying.
There's a long opening sequence in California showing what a work-obsessed Yuppie Peter Banning (Robin Williams) is. There's a lot of unneeded setup between the time the movie opens, and the time a very elderly Wendy (a winning performance by Maggie Smith) tells Peter that "you are Peter Pan." This sequence could have been minimized because Peter's troubled relationship with his kids is done-to-death once Captain Hook spirits the kids to Never-Never Land.
Once TinkerBell drags Peter off to Never-Never Land to rescue his kids, the action picks up, but only slightly. There's some lovely business around Hook realizing what a mundane dud Peter is now, and how TinkerBell promises Hook to get Peter in to shape for a proper war.
I've already mentioned that the movie has a lot of extraneous stuff in it, but there are also a few inexplicable edits in it (okay, you can attribute these inexplicable things to "magic," but still...). One weird quick cut shows Peter being hoisted into the Lost Boys treehouse, but you never know *who* does it. There are also some "magical" costume changes.
The biggest misstep of the movie was its handling of the Lost Boys. Spielberg often does a great job directing one or two children at a time, but the writing and direction of the Lost Boys stunk. Most of the boys were updated into punky or overly cute American kids. It just felt wrong. There were too many "cute shots" of the kids, and a lot of incredibly crude language at times. Peter's acceptance by the boys was tentative at first, but once Peter started believing in himself, they started believing in him.
One writing/directing problem in this movie is the same problem that plagued 1941: You can see *everything* coming miles away. There are few surprises. Also, there are two sequence that scream "THEME PARK RIDE!" I had this same feeling from THE ADDAMS FAMILY, where some stuff felt like it was added to the movie for the sole purpose of being developed into a theme park ride.
I haven't talked about the acting of the main characters, and I guess its because I have such mixed feelings about it. IMHO, Peter Pan is a role Robin Williams was born to play, but he almost does a better job as Peter Banning, mundane, than Peter Pan, the eternal child. While Dustin Hoffman doesn't chew the scenery as Hook, he wavers wildly between being a buffoon and being quite terrifying. Charlie Korsimo is alternately affecting and obnoxious as Peter's son Jack. The girl who plays the daughter, Maggie, is cute and spirited. Julia Roberts is fine as TinkerBell, but her performance seemed strange, and it just might have been because she rarely acted *with* anyone. They aren't terrible, but they appeared to wear their characters like clothing. On the other hand, Bob Hoskins is wonderful as Smee, as is the actor who plays Toodles, another aged Lost Boy. Look for Phil Collins, David Crosby, and Glenn Close in cameos.
The essential problem with the script is it can't decide if its an overblown fairy tale, or if it's a serious movie about parents and children. There are some genuinely affecting moments in the movie, but there are other times when I felt blatantly manipulated. So I think that is where HOOK fails the most----if you can really get in to a movie, you don't feel manipulated.
In short, HOOK isn't a bomb, but it just doesn't deliver very much. If you like the trappings of a film you might like it because there's a lot to admire about the production. Unfortunate, it doesn't include the script.