Combustible Celluloid
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With: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman
Written by: David Magee, based on a play by Allan Knee
Directed by: Marc Forster
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and brief language
Running Time: 101
Date: 09/04/2004

Finding Neverland (2004)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Pan Fried

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Marc Forster made a small indie splash with his first two films, Everything Put Together and Monster's Ball, the latter of which won Halle Berry an Oscar. Both films had their flaws, but both moved with gritty independence and confidence. Now Forster has given that up completely to work within Miramax's shiny, non-offensive mode for his new film Finding Neverland.

Packed with clumsy exposition and creaky plot gimmicks, the film stumbles along in fits and starts, telling the story of James Barrie (Johnny Depp), the man who created and wrote the play Peter Pan. Barrie generates something of a scandal by befriending a beautiful widow (Kate Winslet) and her children while ignoring his chilly wife (Radha Mitchell), but evades his troubles by escaping into a fantasy world.

Forster cooks up an interesting idea to show the fantasy only from the point of view of the person experiencing it; one of the more downcast children only sees "real" life. Despite its failings, the film eventually succeeds thanks to Depp's fearless performance and to a few well-placed heartbreakers, such as Barrie staging the play in Winslet's living room when she is unable to attend the theater. Dustin Hoffman co-stars and excels in one of his few delicious comic roles, Julie Christie plays Winslet's sour mother and Kelly MacDonald is wonderful in a small role as Peter Pan.

Miramax's DVD release comes with a commentary track, deleted scenes (with optional director commentary), outtakes and several featurettes. It's presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with optional French and Spanish language tracks and optional French and Spanish subtitles.

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