tek's rating: ½

Return to Never Land (G)
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This is a 2002 sequel to the 1953 film Peter Pan. I didn't see it until I got it on DVD in 2013, by which point I was fairly certain it was a direct-to-video sequel, but apparently it was released theatrically. The DVD I have has bonus features that include five short films set in the "Disney Fairies" franchise (which didn't yet exist when this movie was originally released).

It begins with a spark of light (Tinker Bell) flying through the clouds and making some, uh, cloud-sculptures or whatever, that remind the viewer of things from the original movie, so I liked that bit. But soon the actual story starts, with Wendy growing up and having kids of her own, Jane and her baby brother, Danny. World War II breaks out, and their father goes off to war, telling Jane to look after her mother and brother. Then I think a few years pass... and Jane, who had always enjoyed her mother's stories about Peter Pan and Captain Hook as much as Danny had, now stops believing in those stories. She tries to be practical about dealing with the reality of living in wartime, and ends up telling Danny that their mother's stories aren't real, which upsets both Danny and Wendy. (I should mention, I think it's an interesting twist that Jane wanted to be grown up and disbelieve in Peter Pan, whereas in the original movie, Wendy had wanted to believe in Peter and never grow up.)

Then, the night before Jane and Danny are supposed to be evacuated to the countryside with other children from London (which Jane doesn't want to do), Captain Hook and his pirates show up and kidnap Jane, who they think is actually Wendy. (Hook does this to get revenge on Peter Pan.) And their ship flies through London, and then through a kaleidoscopic wormhole kind of thing, which I thought was really neat (and trippy). When they get to Never Land, Hook uses Jane (who is in a sack) as bait for an octopus, but actually she's bait for Peter to come and rescue her, and get eaten by the Octopus, himself. Of course Peter and Tinker Bell rescue her and they all fly away from the pirate ship, but once Peter gets her out of the sack, he realizes Jane is not Wendy. Still, he and the Lost Boys are happy to have her around, but Jane just wants to go home, to apologize for having argued with her mother and Danny. (Tink, of course, would be happy to see her go.) So, Peter tries to teach Jane to fly, but she can't (presumably because she can't think any happy thoughts, but also because she still has trouble believing in any of this). And her disbelief puts Tink's life in danger, since fairies can only exist when people believe in them.

Meanwhile, Hook is determined to find Peter and take revenge. When he learns that Jane can't fly, he comes up with a plan to trick her into helping him. Anyway, Peter and the Lost Boys realize they have to make Jane believe in fairies, so they go out looking for her after she had run off, and their search provides some really neat visual gags. But they didn't have to look long, because she was looking for them, too. To play her part in the deal she'd struck with Hook. And I guess I don't want to reveal any more of the plot, but of course there's fun and danger and a happy ending. And... the movie was definitely better than I expected it to be. Oh... and while all the voice actors did a reasonably good job, I thought the actor playing Mr. Smee sounded exactly like the actor from the original movie (which he wasn't).

animation index
Flash index
Peter Pan
movies: Peter Pan (1953) * Hook * Return to Never Land * Peter Pan (2003) * Finding Neverland * Tinker Bell * Pan * Peter Pan & Wendy
TV: Neverland (2011) * Once Upon a Time * Peter Pan Live! * The New Adventures of Peter Pan